I and my family just spent the better part of the day today attending a Memorial Day Tribute and touring the George H.W. Bush Gallery at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. There were the presentations of the colors, a singing of the “National Anthem” and “America the Beautiful”, a laying of wreaths by the Gold Star Mothers, the playing of “Scotland the Brave” and “Amazing Grace” by a talented, young bag-piper, and a short but moving speech by Lt. General Donald Holder (U.S. Army Ret.). He said, “We have an obligation to protect and expand on the freedoms that they (our fallen heroes) won for us.”
As I toured the museum, I was captivated by the engaging exhibits, mesmerized by enthralling stories from the myriad battles fought in the Pacific theater, and amazed and overwhelmed at the breadth of the tragedy that was World War II. Though we lost over 400,000 souls during the course of this war, the toll of life (soldier and civilian) was even greater for other countries involved; over two and a half million Japanese, four million Germans, six million Poles, 17 million Chinese, and over 20 million Russians. All totaled, the death toll was a staggering 88 million people by some estimates, making it the deadliest war in human history!
I was reminded after leaving the museum, of the question I often hear voiced by many well-meaning folks who try to grapple with and get their arms around such an unfathomable human tragedy:why would God allow such suffering to occur? Or similarly, how is it that a loving and just God would one day bring destruction upon millions and millions of people at the Judgment? A fair set of questions…
God created man in His own image with a will to choose his (or her) own way. When sin entered human existence through that free will being exercised, suffering too became a part of our existence. So it should come as no surprise that when nations, ruled by tyrants bent on advancing their own selfish agendas and lust for self-aggrandizement and accumulation of wealth, are intent on taking the resources, human and material, of another nation, then death and destruction on the scale of a World War II would rapidly ensue. God, though intimately involved in human history, leaves man to his own devices to show him his utter sinfulness and his need for a Savior. He will one day return to bring justice to the entire world for the first time in human history and to establish a rule which will be peaceful, equitable, prosperous, and righteous in every respect for all peoples in every nation. In order to do so, He will necessarily judge the nations with equanimity, truth, and fairness, setting right all wrongs and avenging all evil. A necessary part of “setting the world right” will be to judge and exclude from the new order all who did evil and did not repent (i.e. turn to Jesus) in the old order of things. Man, in his inhumanity to man, has killed, maimed and de-humanized hundreds of millions of souls throughout the ages. God will set all this tragic history aright, excluding those who choose to go their own way (sin) rather than choosing His Way (Jesus). As C.S. Lewis once put it in his famous allegory The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened. ” He will then welcome millions upon hundreds of millions of our fellow men, women, and children (and perhaps some animals as Lewis, George MacDonald, and others postulated) to a world free from conflict, want, sadness, sorrow, pain, suffering, and death who ultimately look to the Life-Giver for such a world without end! Amen! Isaiah 9:2-7; 11:1-9; Revelation 20:1-15; 21:1-8