Of course, at the time she penned this now classic work, few outside the world of history cared. The globe had been through two World Wars, the Korean conflict, and a then burgeoning Cold
War. Most people in America were war weary, as the unfolding 1960’s and the reaction to the Vietnam conflict would soon demonstrate.
These days, interest in Ms. Tuchman’s book is at an all-time high. It has been reissued several times down through the years, and is also now available in digital and audio formats. Indeed, www.audible.com and www.iTunes.com have introduced a whole new generation to her thorough investigation of this most critical time in world history.
Today, August 4, 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of the technical beginning of World War One. Nations from all over Europe are marking the start of the First World War. Heads of State from most all of the warring powers have gathered in the place where it all began. The King and Queen of Belgium are hosting delegates and dignitaries from around the world as they have gathered on a now forested hill overlooking the historic city of Liege. It was here that German soldiers set off the actual conflict by brazenly invading a neighboring country.
Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, writing for www.Time.com, sums it up quite well: "The tumble into the Great War began with the bullet that assassinated Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th 1914, putting the empire and its ally Germany on a collision course with Serbia and Russia, eventually dragging in Britain and France."
"No amount of diplomacy or warnings of a coming catastrophe were able to prevent the spiral of nationalism and paranoia. On August 4th, 1914, German soldiers crossed into Belgium, hoping for a swift advance to Paris. This triggered a British pledge to protect the small nation’s neutrality, and by 11pm that night Germany and Britain were at war."*
Of course, the world was soon to learn the true cost of this rapidly unfolding calamity. Before it was all over, what had started out as a seemingly small, regional fight mushroomed into a genuinely global conflict. More importantly, before the four year-long struggle was resolved, nine million combatants and another seven million civilians had died.
Worse yet, technological innovations unfolded which were to usher in a whole new era of human slaughter – literally on a mass scale. Chemical warfare, machine guns, tanks, battleships, submarines, and airplanes (involving both dogfights and aerial bombardment) and were all introduced in earnest for the first time.
And worse of all, the so-called peace that came about as a result of the end of the conflict was to serve only as a simmering pressure cooker for the next two decades. Eventually, that pressure was to come to a head all over again, as all the major warring powers and many more undertook a second, even more terrible World War from 1939-1945.
That conflict, now almost universally seen as a continuation of the First World War, saw the involvement of more than 100 million other people from more than thirty different countries. Of these, an estimated 73 million people died. Little wonder, then, that August 4, 1914 is considered such a fateful day in human history.
In all of this, I am reminded of another fateful day in human history. The exact calendar date is lost in pre-history. But the story itself is recorded in another best-seller: the Bible. We are told that, on that fateful day, an eternal conflict unfolded. Just like with World War One, it all began with a seemingly inconsequential step. First Eve, and then Adam, violated their agreement with their Creator by disobeying Him and trespassing upon the fruit of the forbidden tree (known as tree of the knowledge of good and evil).
What seemed like such a small step by two little people was to unleash a whole series of events which were to prove catastrophic for all of ensuing human history. Just as no country and no person on earth in the twentieth century was unaffected in some way by “the Great War” of 1914-1918, even so there is no person in all of human history who has not been impacted by Adam and Eve’s decision to sin against God.
Indeed, all the propensities of men and women toward evil throughout their entire history, including war and killing, can be traced to this first ever violation of God’s law. Every succeeding sin in all of human history came from that very first one.
This is why the Bible tells us (in the Old Testament in Psalms 14 and again in the New Testament in Romans 3:10) that… “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” And also why the Bible further states (in Romans 3:23) that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Of course, there is a terrible price to pay for this. Romans 6:23a tells us that “the wages of sin is death”. This is the Apostle Paul’s way of summarizing the curse of death that God placed upon mankind for sinning against Him in the Garden of Eden. And how terrible is that curse! All of God’s creation groans as it now travails under the penalty of mankind’s disobedience.
And yet, God, in his grace, mercy, and love, did not abandon us to our fate. In Romans 5:8, Paul tells us that “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Which is why Paul further states (in Romans 6:23b): “ …but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thus it is, as Billy Graham has so often said, that we can have “peace with God”.
You see, my friend, it is not God’s desire to pursue and punish a rebellious mankind for all of history. Or even for all of eternity. Therefore, He has offered us peace - with Him, with ourselves, and with our fellow man. But the terms are His, not ours. And these are his terms, directly from the book of Romans (10:9-13)...
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But this same Jesus also admonished us not to call him Lord and then not live our lives in accordance with his will (Luke 6:46). Indeed, He told us to count the costs before we commit our lives to Him (Luke 14). For ultimately, to be a follower of Jesus is to die to self and to declare that we live for our lord and for His will (Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 14, John 3) rather than for ourselves and for our will. For this reason, the Apostle Paul talks about being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and dying daily to self (I Corinthians 15:30).
Admittedly, these are tough terms. But, all who accept these peace terms will surely be blessed. They will be forgiven and then they will live daily in a state of restoration, having been redeemed by God’s Son. And when their earthly life is over, they will then enjoy a perfect world for all eternity – one in a new Heaven and a new Earth, one akin to that which God had intended before sin ever entered into this world.
Regrettably, those who do not will experience what the Bible calls “the second death”. Their physical death in this life will then be followed by a second, spiritual death. As a result, they will never get to experience the wonders of eternal life that God intended for men and women as beings uniquely created in His image.
All of this is to say that I hope you, dear friend, have accepted God’s peace terms. I hope that you have embraced the grace and forgiveness of God offered through His Son, Jesus Christ. If not, then today would be a perfect time to do just that. And if this is so, then for you, today could indeed be “a fateful day”, not only in terms of world history, but in terms of all of eternity!