By Graham Glover –
“We will pray for peace every day, but at the same time, the U.S. Army will prepare for war.”
(Army Chief of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, 9 October 2017)
These words, spoken by the most senior uniformed Army officer, could have been spoken by a theologian. They might even make for a good introduction to a sermon.
Although spoken in reference to the tenuous situation in North Korea, GEN Milley’s words could just as easily be used to reference our spiritual situation.
Commending the Soldiers and Units of the US Army to be ready for the realities of war, GEN Milley reminds us (military and civilian alike) that we are to daily pray for peace – that peace is and will always remain our desired end state. And so it is that all of us should also recognize the spiritual realities of the world in which we live. A world that is ripe with sin that infects each and every one of us. A sinful state that is seen on a daily basis in the misdeeds that each of us commit. None of us are immune to these misdeeds and all of us are to blame for the wretched state of affairs in our world. We are all guilty of contributing to the culture of discontent that plagues us all. And yet despite the stark reality of our fallen, sinful world, all of us should find hope not only in the world that is to come, but also in the sinful lives that we daily struggle to overcome. For as we are called to prayer, to prostrate ourselves before the One who redeems us from our sinful state, we encounter lives that are forgiven and made new. As we cry out to the One that paid the price for our sins, we rejoice in the freedom we now have to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord and one another.
GEN Milley’s words also remind us that despite our best efforts, people will continue to fail. War, as tragic as it is, and as much as we wish it could be avoided, will always be a reality in our world. This is why we must be ready to confront our enemies. This is why we can never let our guard down. Our Army is ready. And so is the Church. As Christians, we know that true peace will come only with the Second Advent of our Lord and the new heaven and new earth that it will bring. We know that until this glorious day comes, that wars and rumors of war will be as constant as the sun rising and setting. But we also know that as we face these wars – both temporal and spiritual, that God has given us ample resources to assist. He has given us the State to yield the sword, but more importantly, He has given us His Word and Sacraments to sustain us in the midst of these battles. In them we encounter the One made flesh among us. In them we receive everything we need to overcome the evils of this world.
So pray my dear friends. Pray for peace. Pray that the evil of our world would be no more. But above all, trust in God. Trust that He provides – that He hears our cries for mercy and our desire for peace. Pray and prepare. Prepare with His gifts. Prepare with His grace, given for you.