By design, the monuments help us remember and honor those who were willing to pay the high price of the agonies that come from war. One's heart would need to be as hard as the marble used to construct these monuments to remain unmoved by the words, the names, and the solemnity of the moment.
Every time I visit the area, I bring a new image home with me. This trip I found it in the words that are carved on the marble wall of room three of the Roosevelt Memorial:
I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war. (Address at Chautauqua, NY, August 14, 1936)
As I stood there reading those words, "I have seen war ... I hate war," that was my sentiment as well. Though I have never been engaged in the literal battle of hand-to-hand combat, I have known those who have. Though I have never shed blood, or seen blood shed on distant soil, I have seen and heard the agony of those who have. I have seen enough of the results of war, literal war and the war of the mind and the will, to know that I hate war.
I hate war. World wars. International wars. National wars. Tribal wars. Political wars. Family wars. Internal wars. I hate war.
I hate war because war forces us to choose sides. We must choose them or us. Our side verses their side. We are right; they are wrong. We are the good guys; they are the enemy. There is my view and the wrong view. My opinion is right; yours is wrong.
Whether the battle rages on foreign soil or in our living rooms, war divides us. War destroys a part of us. Whether the weapons of war are capable of mass destruction or mental distress, war is deadly. Soldier against soldier. World power against world power. Church leader against church leader. Husband against wife. Parent against child. Employer against employee. The war may only rage inside each of us, but it is war nonetheless. War destroys. I hate war.
For those who may read this while you are literally engaged in physical war, I say to you thank you for your willingness to fight for what you believe, thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice. But I must also say, I'm sorry that you must fight, I'm sorry that you must be so brave, I'm sorry that you must sacrifice, I'm sorry that we are at war.
"I have seen war ... I hate war."
War is a reality. I know that. Some would argue it is even a necessity. I don't know that. What I do know is that Jesus said this:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)
As we enter into this season where we hear, sing, and recite the words, "peace on earth," "joy to the world," and "let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me," let's make these sentiments our mission. Let all the world find true joy in the coming of the only Lord and King that brings peace. Lord, use me to make this more true ... beginning today.
"I have seen war ... I hate war." But I treasure the peace of Christ.