Summary: Why love is so crucial in our Christian walk and use reflections of Memorial Day to describe that.
The Beatles song, Love, love, love is all you need was a popular song. Young people of that time echoed that sentiment in their actions and in how they lived their lives. They thought this was a new concept that their parents just wouldn’t or couldn’t get. But the concept was far older than the Beatles song or the 60’s generation, it went back to the time of Christ. In our reading in John we hear, “17This is my command: Love each other.
Today is Memorial Day Sunday. On Monday, many of us will go to cemeteries to remember those who have gone before us. Many of those who died serving their country and especially this year it will be poignant as we reflect on the war that has raged in the last few months.
War. War has been around since the beginnings of time. My children’s generation has never known a war till recently. The only wars my generation can recall are the Vietnam War (and that one only vaguely), the Falklands, and the first Gulf War.
World War II is a time in history to me. Not a memory that I have but something I have seen on TV documentaries and movies, read in history books, or have heard stories told of it. I can only know of this era through these mediums whereas many of you have experienced it first hand. You lived that time, you felt the losses, endured the trials and tribulations, recognized the atrocities, and made the sacrifices. This era not only saw the tragedies but also saw some special gifts that came from the horrors.
Mitsuo Fuchida led in history one of the greatest and most highly successful sneak attacks recorded in history. Under his command was a squadron of 860 specially selected airplanes. Fuchida had been specially chosen for this mission having accumulated the highest amount of flight hours and flown the most missions in his country. On December 7, 1941, nearly 62 years ago, a day that would live in infamy and change the history of the United States dramatically. Mitsuo Fuchida’s squadron bombed Pearl Harbor, successfully disabling the US Naval fleet, not only extensive damage was done to battleships and battleships lost, the US military received a high casualty and death toll. The Japanese had done something that the US had not foreseen.
Fuchida became one of the most hated Japanese in the United States and one of the most highly acclaimed in Japan. Fuchida was glad to honor his country through his patriotism and service.
One man who was angered and hated what the Japanese had done was a young B-25 bomber pilot, Jacob DeShazer. On April 18, young DeShazer was given the opportunity to fight back. He was sent on a dangerous raid over Japan. Flying his bomber named, the Bat out of Hell, he set out. After dropping his bombs on the city of Nagoya, DeShazer lost his way in heavy fog and was forced to eject as his plane ran out of fuel. The Japanese captured the crew of the Bat out of Hell. They were taken prisoner, tortured by the Japanese, some executed and some threatened with their imminent death. For almost two years, DeShazer suffered with hunger, cold, dysentery, and watching his fellow prisoners die and was filled with overwhelming hatred of his Japanese guards.
In May of 1944, DeShazer was given a Bible. He was to have the Bible for only three weeks. He started at Genesis and read through several times, barely sleeping. On June 8, he read, Romans 10:9, “If you believe with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Jacob DeShazer prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior.
Immediately Matthew 5:44 became a critical text for him, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” This changed how DeShazer treated his Japanese guards. His hostility toward them evaporated and every morning he greeted them warmly. He prayed for them and sought to witness to them. He noticed their attitude toward him also changed and they would often slip him food or supplies.
After the war, Jacob DeShazer, went to Seattle and studied to prepare himself to return to Japan as a missionary. DeShazer returned to Japan and established a church in the city of Nagoya, the very city which he had bombed. DeShazer wrote a pamphlet that flooded Japan, the simple pamphlet was entitled, “I Was a Prisoner of the Japanese.” Thousands wanted to see and hear the man who could forgive and love his enemies.
Mitsuo Fuchida went on to a great military career. On the eve of the battle of Midway, the battle which turned the war away from the Japanese, he came down with an appendicitis attack and was unable to fight. The day prior to the bombing of Hiroshima, Fuchida was there, but was unexpectedly called away. When the emperor announced the surrender of Japan, Fuchida complied. He was a disillusioned man after the war. He began farming, often being called into the city to testify on the request of General McArthur. One of these trips into the city, stepping off the subway, he was handed a pamphlet. The very pamphlet written by Jacob DeShazer. Fuchida despite being a firm Buddhist was intrigued by DeShazer’s words and went and bought a Japanese Bible. He also met Glenn Wagner of the Pocket Testament League, who spoke further with him about Christ. Fuchida was greatly affected by Luke 23:24, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do,” the words Christ spoke upon the cross as he was dying asking forgiveness for those who were killing him.