I grew up spending Sunday evenings at my grandparents’ house. I’d sit on their split-pea colored sofa with a book in my hand listening to the grownups talk. The newsmagazine show 60 Minutes played on the television, followed by Murder She Wrote. They merely served as background noise to my grandfather recounting stories from his time fighting with the U.S. Army in World War II.
Occasionally, he would take me down to the basement and open up an old metal locker. Inside were some of the artifacts from the war. He’d show me money he collected from the various countries in Europe. As he pulled out each coin or bill, he’d talk about the country and speak a few words in French or German he’d picked up along the way.
My grandfather died more than five years ago, and his stories went with him. I didn’t realize how much I missed those stories until my husband and I visited Normandy, France. Normandy was the scene of D-Day on June 6, 1944—71 years ago today.
That morning, Allied forces staged a massive attack against the Germans who held France. Both of my grandfathers were involved in the battle on the French coast, and that personal history made me want to tour the region. My husband and I hired a local personal tour guide who drove us around the area visiting key villages, beaches, even graveyards.
We stood on the expansive shores of Omaha Beach. It was calm and peaceful. A handful of people walked along the golden coastline. I looked out over the water and imagined my maternal grandfather’s naval ship out there with the hundreds of others that crossed the English Channel that day, bringing soldiers ashore. We walked around the gun turrets hidden in the hills above the beach. Those guns mowed down soldier after soldier as they came ashore. It was surreal being in a place of such beauty, knowing it still held memories of horror, evil, and death.
Holidays marking the end of a war or honoring our nation’s soldiers often go by unnoticed by most of us. D-Day is one of them, especially as the veterans continue to die in old age. But such days should make us pause and remember. Brave soldiers laid down their lives for the sake of freedom. Their stories teach us much. Their heroism and honor and sacrifice deserve our respect.
Wars have existed since the fall of man. Every century and every nation has experienced war. Jesus told us there’d be wars and rumors of wars until his return. And these wars all point to the greater war in which we engage. All wars in our world—no matter how great or small, no matter how far past or how recent—remind us of the dreadful effects of the fall. War reminds us that at the heart of all our conflict is sin, humanity’s deepest problem. War is one of those arenas where sin and evil are unleashed in all their horror and depravity.
When we live in a time of peace and don’t see the extent of this evil in our day-to-day life, we tend to forget the deep effects of sin on the heart of all mankind. Taking time to remember past wars reminds us we live in the midst of a great battle. The war we wage isn’t for land or authority or even certain human rights; it’s against sin and evil itself. The apostle Paul put it this way: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
The integrity, bravery, commitment, and sacrifice our nation’s war heroes displayed during World War II shows the depth of commitment it takes to fight against evil. Likewise, it takes severe measures to wage war in our own hearts against sin. What our soldiers have given for the sake of freedom and justice reveals that the battle against evil requires all the resources at our disposal.
The first followers of our Savior thought he’d come to stand against the rulers and authorities of their day. They assumed he’d rise up against the tyranny of the Roman government. Instead Christ came to conquer worse enemies than flesh and blood—sin and death. He came to wage war against our most terrible enemy. It was a costly battle—a cost he didn’t deserve to bear. But it was the only way to save and redeem his people—us—from sin. In laying down his life in our place, he paid the price, conquered sin and death, and freed us from bondage. In rising from the dead, his victory became our victory. While the Allies secured physical freedom for Europe, Christ secured our eternal spiritual freedom at Calvary.
D-Day was a turning point in the war against Germany. It enabled the Allies to push inland toward Paris and ultimately across Europe. The Allies’ victory against Hitler reminds us that there is an end to war. There will come a day when peace will reign and when the wolf will dwell with the lamb (Isa. 11:6). Christ our King will come, Satan will be cast into hell, sin will be no more, and we will reign with Jesus forever.
Our nation has engaged in many battles and wars and will continue to do so as long as we live in this sin-stained world. There’s much we can learn from the stories of the brave soldiers who’ve fought on our behalf. Above all, may their stories remind us of the one who fought an even greater battle—against evil itself—and won our victory forever.