This week the world recognized two extremely significant anniversaries. Those dates stood out in the 20th Century as iconic moments in regards to freedom and opposing tyranny. I’m talking, of course, about the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the 75th remembrance of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, D-Day.
The beginning of June 1989 witnessed the peak of student protests in China. Calling for reforms and an end to the corruption brought on by the Communist state, those students experienced in the early hours of June 4 a government crackdown that likely left thousands dead. Very little video footage of that night exists, and even the iconic image of Tank Man had to be smuggled out of the country.
In China today many aren’t even aware of the events at Tiananmen Square 30 years ago. The government has been effective in erasing the memory of it among the people, censoring its mention in the media and even using a firewall to block international news outlets who were reporting on the anniversary.
Yesterday, June 6, freedom-loving nations worldwide remembered those who took part in the successful Allied invasion of France. “Successful” is a subjective term, of course, because it required the ultimate sacrifice of more than 4,400 servicemen for that to happen.
I’ve always had a fascination with D-Day, even before the opening sequence of “Saving Private Ryan” that left me as speechless and spellbound as I’ve ever been in a movie theater. As a fourth-grader in 1984, I remember its 40th anniversary being a major part of the news, accompanied by grainy, black-and-white footage of soldiers falling on Omaha Beach.
In recent years I’ve become enamored with stories such as that of Easy Company, who began their training in Toccoa before going on to Europe and having their story become well-known through the book and HBO series “Band of Brothers.” I highly recommend reading the memoirs of one of their commanders, Major Dick Winters.
These anniversaries deal with the struggle for freedom. This week I was reading through 2 Corinthians and came across chapter 3, verse 17:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
This passage relates to the Jewish people being so close in recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. But for some reason they were unable to take that final step toward belief. Paul described it as a veil that “lies over their hearts” (v. 15). Once that veil is lifted through exposure to and understanding the Gospel, though, it leads to freedom.
In a previous editorial I cited the drop in baptisms in Georgia. We live in a culture familiar with Jesus, but not in relationship with Him. Much like those written about in 2 Corinthians 3:12-17, a veil keeps them from taking that extra step.
There is no shortage of debates as to why that is. The more urgent discussion is how to communicate that freedom found in the Gospel. It begins with One.
Not wanting to take anything away from SBC President J.D. Greear’s “Who’s Your One?” emphasis, but I want to turn the focus on this “One” inwardly. That would be you; that would be me. What am I doing to really make a difference in someone’s life today? How am I being intentional in telling them about Christ? Am I praying for those opportunities for a Gospel encounter and preparing myself beforehand?
Thirty years ago, a man still unidentified by name to history was walking along in Beijing. He saw a column of tanks rolling toward student protesters, intent on continuing the carnage from the night before. Armed only with grocery bags, he stood in front of them and made them stop. He took his stand.
Seventy-five years ago, farmers, schoolteachers, small business owners, custodians – pick an occupation, they were there – drew upon the beaches of northern France. They faced a ferocious enemy intent on snuffing out freedom. Hearing their words on that experience, you can’t help but be awestruck at the humility they express. They played a direct role in securing freedom for a continent yet look at it as only doing their job.
Reaching Georgia for Christ is going to require each person uniquely gifted by the Lord in his or her way. It’s going to include some ways of thinking not undertaken before. The task is going to need an appreciation of the importance of pastors in their families, churches, and communities, equipping them to minister effectively in all three contexts. Improving church strength will be crucial.
I believe there is also a veil of sorts to be lifted from our own eyes. That’s the veil of worthiness. You may see yourself as “just you” – insignificant and not a big part of the call to introduce others to this freedom found in Christ.
You would be wrong.
We are called by the Gospel to live out and tell others of that same Good News. Only then will the veil be lifted by both teller and hearer, and the freedom of Christ experienced by all.