In the midst of every small town in the north, in a prominent spot, is a Civil War monument. Here is the one in Montrose, PA, where I attended a conference last week. A soldier stands atop a plinth, the base of which is surrounded by what look like tombstones, but are lists of the men who died in the “War of 1861-1865”, as the memorial calls it. The list is divided by county and also indicates how many men enlisted from each. This memorial was erected in 1876, when the absence of those men was still felt. They were brothers, sons, husbands, and fathers. Montrose sent about 165 men to war, of which about 25-30 have their names on this list of the dead. Not listed, though, are the walking wounded, those who lived, but carried the marks, the injuries, the missing limbs, the lead mini balls in their bodies, who bore the sufferings of the nation in their person.
Holes were left in every town. Spaces left vacant by the deaths of men of the town. Future leaders, workers. Fellow citizens. Holes that were not filled til the whole generation joined them in death. Undoubtedly, Montrose, and every small town would have been better off with those men alive, filling those empty places. It would have been better if they had not gone to war…
But…they fought for a cause. “The Union Must and Shall Be Preserved” says the monument. Had Montrose, and every other Northern town, not sent their young men off to war, the Union would have dissolved. And slavery, which this town opposed, being a stop on the Underground Railroad, would have continued. But they did go to war. And the Union was preserved. And slavery was ended. Their sacrifice helped to exorcise the demons of this national subjugation of a race of men. How could they have not taken part in the war. Yet in war people die, even when you win.
And so it is in the church. We too are in a war. We too fight an enemy. It is a real war, even though the victory has been accomplished. And people die. People get injured. Some of the soldiers are debilitated, sometimes less, sometimes more, even when you are the victors. Are we to avoid the fight because there is danger, because some will be hurt, maybe even die? Is our safety and comfort more important than the battle that is being waged? Will we refuse to take our place on the line, and allow the forces of evil to gain a respite? No. For Jesus is Lord. And his Kingdom is come and coming. And God desires all to be saved. And he will do that through us, pushing forward his kingdom, declaring his glories.
It is a real war we are engaged in, with a real enemy. People will be hurt, be debilitated, be killed. But the Kingdom will continue. And the Kingdom is worth it.