Memorial Day weekend has just passed, signifying the beginning of summer. The holiday has always been special to me, a time of remembering those who have served us in dangerous times, in dangerous ways. We remember those who left their ordinary lives to serve in extraordinary ways.
We Americans are fortunate that we’ve never been occupied, at least in living memory. My wife, however, is from a small European country that has been occupied, by Germany in the past and Russia more recently. Her people have different memories of war, different from ours. Their memories include being overrun, first by one country and then another.
How would we live if we were citizens of an occupied country, ruled by outsiders, and were not free? The Jews experienced this in 587 B.C., when the Babylonians swept out of the north, besieged Jerusalem and conquered Israel. The Jews were held captive in Babylon, a bitter pill to swallow. God’s prophet during those times was Jeremiah, and Jeremiah 29 records God’s word to those in exile: “Settle down. Seek the good of the city where you are. I have a plan for you, a plan to prosper you, said God. Seek the prosperity of the city.”
In many ways, I see Christians in this same light. We are where we do not belong. We belong with God, who has prepared a place for us, with Him, in eternity. But we are here now, in exile.
Maybe a good metaphor is that we are living in a camp for displaced people, or that we are living behind enemy lines even though the enemy has lost the war. Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday remind us that the war is over, that God will win in the end. But even as we affirm that, we can look around at hundreds of kidnapped girls in Nigeria, at an overloaded ferry in Korea that sank, killing many high school students, and we know that this world is not quite right. There is something wrong with it.
What’s wrong is that Christ has not yet come to make everything right, everything fair, a place where abuse doesn’t exist, where pain and suffering are no more. We long for that kind of world because it is what the world was intended to be before we humans sinned.
So until Jesus comes again, we live where sin rules, not love. We live in a world where strength rather than service is important. We praise the conquerors, not the meek. We live in an occupied world. Christ is in the process of taking it back, heart by heart, but it won’t really be right until Jesus comes again.
In the meantime, we Christians are, like the ancient Jews, to seek the good of those around us, pray for our civic leaders and hold onto the promises of God while we are in exile.
We remember those who have fought for us, but we also understand that we are in a war, too, a war for the hearts and souls of humankind. Jesus has won, but we still live in occupied territory.
The Rev. David Moore is pastor of Union Presbyterian Church of Los Altos, 858 University Ave. For more information, call 948-4361 or visit unionpc.org.