100 years ago – on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (Nov. 11, 1918) – the Armistice was signed ending the hostilities of World War I.
One year later, Nov. 11, 1919, the United Kingdom, the United States, and many other countries observed Armistice Day to celebrate peace as a universal principle following four years of horrific warfare. Armistice Day was born and was designated as a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace. Some countries still observe Armistice Day but in 1954 the U.S. Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day “in order that a grateful nation, on a day dedicated to the cause of world peace, may pay homage to all of its veterans” (Changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day, H.Rept. 1333, p. 1).
Since 1985 organizations such as Veterans for Peace (veteransforpeace.org) have encouraged Americans to recover the original focus of Armistice Day and Veterans Day – lifting up the cause of world peace while honoring the sacrifices of veterans. They fear that a day dedicated to honoring the warrior has morphed into a day honoring the military and glorifying war.
Matters of war and peace are challenging issues for thoughtful and faithful Christians. Innumerable biblical passages make clear that God desires all human beings to live in peace and harmony with one another. Among many other titles, Jesus is known as the “Prince of Peace.”
Throughout the history of Christianity, many Christians have regarded pacifism (the belief that war of any kind is morally unacceptable) as the only faithful position. Many other Christians have held the view that, under certain clearly defined and limited conditions (the “Just War Doctrine”), war may be an acceptable last resort.
At worship on Sunday, November 11, we will recognize Reformation members who have served in our nation’s armed forces. We do so not to glorify war but to honor their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
Whatever your views on war and peace, I hope you will join us to honor those who have served.
With gratitude for all who serve,
Pastor Wayne Matthias-Long