One hundred and one years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in a forest in France, Germany surrendered to the Allied nations to end the most horrific war to that point in human history.
They called it the War to End All Wars because of the sheer magnitude of the conflict, which bore global consequences. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last war the world would see. Two decades later, World War II would become the deadliest conflict ever.
Across the British Commonwealth, and in the United States, people still pause and pay honor to those who made such great sacrifices — some of them paying the ultimate price — to defend their homes, their people and their freedoms.
In the Commonwealth, Nov. 11 became Remembrance Day, set aside to honor members of the British Armed Forces who gave their lives for their countries. In the U.S., the date became Armistice Day, to memorialize the end of World War I, but later in 1954, it was redefined to honor all the men and women who have served in our military. Today, Nov. 11 is known as Veterans Day.
As an American, I am deeply grateful for our veterans. Every time I see one of them, wearing their “Vietnam Veteran” or “World War II Veteran” hat, I am reminded that I get to enjoy the freedoms I enjoy because they were willing to fight for them.
As a pastor, I cannot help but also notice a deep spiritual truth in our veterans. One of the key teachings of Jesus that undergirded his ministry on earth was a call to serve one another. He said to his followers, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).
The Apostle Paul echoed this same sentiment when he wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
And of course, Jesus himself modeled this himself when he died on the cross for us. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends,” he told his disciples shortly before his death (John 15:13).
You see, when we serve one another, when we sacrifice ourselves for another person’s good, we are imitating Jesus, and in doing so, we are living the way we were truly made to live.
If you think about it, when we honor our veterans we don’t say, “Thank you for joining the military” or “for deploying overseas and fighting our enemies.” Of course, we are grateful that the men and women in our armed services are willing to not only fight but also die for their country. But when we honor them, we say, “Thank you for your service.” Because that’s what it’s all about — serving their nation.
So on this Veterans Day, let’s honor our veterans and thank them for all they have sacrificed for us and our nation. And let us imitate them in serving one another, which is our greatest calling.