Back in the 1940s, our country was deeply engaged in the Second World War. Along with sending young men and women into military service and combat overseas, civilians at home also joined in the war efforts.
In the spring of 1942, the Food Rationing Program was set in motion here in the states. Americans were issued rationing books and allotted a certain number of food rations per week. We were also expected to conserve on metal, gasoline and other fuels, rubber, and even clothing. In those times, the people of our nation worked together to see that supply levels were available for our troops abroad. Not a single person was unaffected, and this rationing meant sacrifice for all.
Americans understood that these measures were needed if we were to defeat our enemies abroad. It was not a comfortable or easy time for anyone. Yet Americans banded together for the common good of our country.
To my knowledge, few objected to their rights and personal freedoms being taken away. Few claimed this was a ploy, or plot, or conspiracy by a political party. Rather, it was a joint exercise in delayed gratification: In order to ensure our freedom "tomorrow," Americans knew they had to take some actions, and make some sacrifices "today".
As history will verify, these efforts paid off! Along with the help of our allies, we were able to defeat our enemies. Certainly, it was due to our fighting forces on the front lines, but also because of civilian efforts of support at home. It was a testimony to American unity, solidarity, and teamwork!
These decades later, we have another enemy threatening American lives and futures. Yet sadly, it seems the spirit in America has changed considerably. Rather than binding together as a nation, we are choosing to divide into political parties and special interest groups. Rather than choosing to fight against a common enemy ( the COVID-19 virus) we seem to have chosen to fight among ourselves.
Simple things asked of us have become grounds for division. Abraham Lincoln put it so well: "A house divided against itself cannot stand", yet this seems to be the path we Americans of the 21st century are taking.
Perhaps we no longer understand the meaning of sacrifice, or we no longer have the will to do it. In his letter to the Philippians (2:7-8),the Apostle Paul wrote, "Let Jesus Christ be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped himself of any privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying … ." (Phillips translation)
It's a strong reminder for people of faith that though Jesus Christ had every right to cling to his privileges as the Son of God, he chose to let them go and to sacrifice himself for the people he loved. Sacrifice is at the very heart of the Christian faith and one of the qualities asked of those who claim to follow Jesus. Sacrifice is focused on the greater good of others, rather than just ourselves.
These are telling days in American history. Will we learn to see beyond our personal preferences, freedoms, and rights to the greater good of all people?
Are we willing to employ delayed gratification and come together as Americans to fight the coronavirus today, so we can have a future tomorrow?
Can we look within to find something of "the spirit of America's past" that has preserved and protected this country these many years?
Are you and I willing to make some sacrifices to defeat our common enemy?
Otherwise, this 200-plus year experiment in democracy and freedom, known as the United States, may be waning. How tragic to consider, our end could come not because of forces outside, but because of bickering and division within!