Last Sunday marked 100 years since the end of World War I. I am a fan of history, but I have to be honest, World War I was not even on my radar until 2014, the 100th anniversary of its beginning. I tried to read a book (I won’t mention which), but stopped a little more than half-way because I was getting too bogged down with all that was happening. Instead of trying to learn from one book, I sought other inlets of knowledge. Biographies on those who lived at the time, documentaries, and school books were helpful in putting together the horror that was The Great War.
One of the interesting moments in history was actually what happened pre-war. Colonel Roosevelt, as he was called after his presidency, had gone to Africa on safari sponsored by the Smithsonian. Upon return, he made a trip through Europe, being invited by much of the royalty throughout. He met with Wilhelm II, Czar Nicolas II, and arrived in England to attend Edward VII’s funeral, meeting with his son King George V. He met with many dignitaries, saw many sights, and observed many armies. It would seem that only TR could put it all together and see a war was one the horizon. Europe was a powder keg ready to explode. It would only take one little match and the world would see a war the likes it never had before. He also predicted it would happen in Austria-Hungry as tensions were mounting. Sadly, he was seen as a “war-monger” and no one would listen to his warnings. As it turned out, he was correct. In June 2014, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, capital of the Bosnia-Herzegovina province of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The rest is history.
But it really isn’t that simple, is it? The entire world was changed by one assassin’s bullet. Empires fell, and the United States became a world-power. Nations that did not even exist before 1918 were suddenly created. Weapons that had never been imagined were developed so that more people could and would die. Chemicals were formed so that soldiers and even civilians would choke to death. Millions upon millions of men would not come home, but were buried in unmarked graves. Leaders were made, hardened by war–like steel–who would eventually lead the nations through another horrid war. Pacts were made, treaties developed, and a League formed. Few of which survived a generation.
It was during this war and the next that cultural Christianity died in Europe. State churches dwindled in attendance, and hearts dwindled in faith. In western Europe, practicing Christianity averages 22%. That is according to the latest Pew Research poll. To be practicing simply means to attend church at least once a month. Both England and France show 18% of practicing Christians while 55% and 46% of the populations respectively still consider themselves non-practicing Christians. Faith in the God of the Bible dropped due to two horrid wars. Perhaps that is understandable, but perhaps if one understood the Scriptures, it would have caused greater faith.
The Bible is not shy about showing the depravity of man. Paul linked together a bunch of verses to describe how evil humanity can get:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
(Romans 3:10-18, ESV; emphasis mine)
The Bible also does not give any remedy to the depravity of man other than Jesus Christ Himself. He alone can save us from our own evils. He alone can change our hearts, leading to a lasting change of actions. He is our Savior alone. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12, ESV). Most will never believe this. They will throw it off as if it were a Marvel Comic Book story. They will continue to believe that they can change themselves, though they have tried time and again and failed. They will continue to put their trust in their governments to make the world a better place, while their governments continue to declare war (whether literal or trade or drug or some other “war”) upon each other.
World War I ended just over 100 years ago, but its affects are long-lasting. History was changed during those four years of combat. Many woke up to the evil around them. But in the haziness of being startled out of their slumber, they stumbled through the wrong door–the door of disbelief. May that never happen with you and me. May the evil that we see in our world help us to see the truths of Scripture and hold fast to our Savior.