“Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”  C. S. Lewis

This week’s article is written by Brad Mercer, Senior Associate Pastor.

“HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.” The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from our trip to Arlington Cemetery, November 10, 2019.

Washington, D.C. is a fascinating and inspiring city. The memorials and museums, the hallowed halls of government, and the endless marches and protests are uniquely American. But Arlington Cemetery is personal.

When our son, Harrison, signed up to serve in the United States Army, most of the paperwork was mind-numbing, so I’ll never forget the day when the Army representative, pen in hand, looked up from his desk and calmly asked, “In the event of your son’s death, where would you like for him to be buried?” It got real, really fast. We chose Arlington Cemetery. Fortunately, Harrison, although a Purple Heart recipient, is healthy and now enjoys civilian life with his wonderful family.

Our son, Harrison, is a Purple Heart recipient who served in the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne).

The highlight, if I can call it that, of Arlington Cemetery is The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On March 4, 1921, the United States Congress voted to approve the burial of an unidentified American soldier who served in World War I. On November 11 of that year the unknown soldier was brought from France and interred beneath a marble tomb. Inscribed on the back of the tomb are the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” Since July 2, 1937, the Army’s “Old Guard” has maintained a protective vigil before the tomb 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no matter the weather.

For me, the rows of gravestones, the marble tomb, the capital dome in the background (see photo), and the spontaneous, reverent hush that comes over visitors compel reflection. While in the cemetery I often think of General Omar Bradley’s address at an Armistice Day luncheon hosted by the Boston Chamber of Commerce in 1948. Here is part of what he said:

We have too many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.

Profound and prescient words. For Christians, embracing the Sermon on the Mount, achieving wisdom, applying ethics, and experiencing peace begin with being known. “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:3). “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more” (Galatians 4:9)?

The words “known but to God” are deeply moving. The words “known by God” change everything. There are no “unknowns” with Jesus Christ. To know Him and to be known by Him is to find the love we have been looking for our whole lives: we don’t have to earn it, we can never lose it, and it goes on forever.

Today, let’s remember those who gave their lives for us. But even more importantly, let’s remember Him whose sacrificial death in our place offers new birth and eternal life.