George McGovern flew B-24 bombers in Africa, Italy and Germany during World War II. He had a successful and celebrated military career. His bravery and leadership, along with many others like him, led to victory in Europe securing our freedom that we celebrate today. Stephen Ambrose in The Wild Blue recounts much of McGovern=s journey to and through WWII. McGovern served with honor and distinction throughout the war as he faithfully flew his missions to the best of his ability. But, as in all wars, tragic events happen. One day after flying a mission over Germany all the bombs had been dropped but one. The last bomb was stuck in the rack and did not drop over the intended target. The B-24 could not land safely with a live bomb still on board. As McGovern flew home, the crew feverishly worked to release the bomb. The bomb doors remained open as the plane flew across the land below. Finally the bomb was freed and dropped from the plane. It was about noon and they were flying over a farming community. McGovern had grown up on a farm and knew that most likely the farmers had gone home for lunch before working on their afternoon chores. He watched in horror and disbelief as the bomb was inadvertently released directly over one of the farm houses. Although completely accidental, the bomb made a direct hit on the house destroying it. McGovern stated that of all he had seen and done in the war that event haunted and dismayed him the most. He knew the family in that home had no chance to survive and he felt responsible. He lived in bondage to that guilt for many years. He had fought for freedom, but he knew innocent lives had been lost as a result of that accident.
Independence Day represents our physical freedom as a nation, but how much more important our spiritual freedom is. As we reflect on our freedoms this month, what events in our lives cause us guilt and keep us from experiencing the abundant life Christ wants for us? Sins, whether intentional or not, drag us down and tie us up preventing us from experiencing all the joy God has in store for our lives. What a great relief and victory May 8, 1945 was for McGovern as VE-day was declared. But even that day was tainted because of innocent lives lost for which McGovern felt responsible. For years he carried that burden, until one day at a conference he met an old farmer from Germany. McGovern discovered this was the man who lived in the farm house that he accidently destroyed. The man related to him that he and his family had been inside just before the bomb hit their home, but they heard the plane coming and took cover outside. Even though the house was destroyed the family survived. The burden and guilt McGovern had carried for all those years had been unnecessary. Image the relief and joy felt he felt as he realized the full truth of the circumstances.
So many times we are like George McGovern, we carry unnecessary guilt in our lives because we either do not know of or will not accept the freedom offered through Christ. Although we have a responsibility to make amends for our wrong actions, Christ frees us from the burden and entanglement of sin when we confess, repent and trust in Him. True freedom, spiritual freedom, is available to all if we will only put our lives in the hands of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Christ died so we could experience release from our sins and He rose again so we could experience eternal life with Him.