“And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And for each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made man.
As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” (Genesis 9:5-6)
Genesis tells us that shedding human blood has a cost. Every kill has a price. And God will demand an accounting for the blood we have shed. We see already in the story of Cain and Abel that God is the great defender of human life and that it is precious to him because we are made in his image. Abel’s blood cries out from the ground. Animals we are given for food. But the shedding of human blood will be accounted for.
In our area of the country, it is common to thank military personnel for their service and to honor those who had died for their ‘sacrifice.’ We applaud those who are willing to put themselves in harms way, possibly suffer injury and death, for the ideals we hold dear. However, this passage strikes me as voicing an often unspoken cost. When a nation asks its young men and women to enter a place of violence, and bring violence themselves (however justified), there is still a cost. Even more than being willing to die, we are asking them to be willing to kill. And every kill has a cost. As a Christian, my life is hidden with God in Christ. As Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Giving up my life is one thing, but to take another would be a much greater sacrifice.
My grandfather was a captain in WWII. He led men during D-day and the Battle of the Bulge. I know he must have killed, but he never talked about it. Until the day he died, he never spoke of what happened. People thanked him for his service and his sacrifice. They thanked him for the sacrifice of his time and health for his country, but no one thanked him for the sacrifice he made by having to kill.
Scripture tells us there is a cost for ending every human life. How would our conversations with servicemen and women change if we counted that cost as well? How would our approach to military conflict change if we recognized the burden placed on those we ask to kill?
I believe we need to change our conversations. We are right to be concerned about the loss of life experienced by our own troops. But we should also lament and work to prevent the killing we ask them to perform. There is an unspoken cost we ask them to pay. What if what was unspoken was suddenly spoken?
the cost is very great, and yes we should learn to talk about it in a helpful way because those like your Grandpa have a heavy burden to carry
Stephen: Both of your grandfathers were in World War II. Grandpa Shaffer was in the Philippines for the last two years of the war. Like Mr. Whitney, it was never something he talked about, but I always sensed that it took a great toll on him. He was about the age you are now.
I used to tell myself that he was probably a clerk at some base far from the fighting. But then I watched the Ken Burns documentary and they interviewed a veteran who had been in the Philippines and he said there was no back line there. If you were there, you were in combat. It gave me a new perspective on my dad.