I learned something from the Internet this year, even though it came from a few years ago. The National Air and Space Museum has a post about D-Day where they explained the stripes painted on Allied aircraft during the Normandy Invasion in World War II. (It’s here. I thought about borrowing a picture and linking it, but I don’t know if that’s fair-use or not.)
To summarize the historical material, originally the aircraft of the Allied forces relied on a basic Identify-Friend-Foe system that was automated. Ground crews and naval forces accessed the same system, but it was neither super fast nor perfectly reliable. As a result, to prevent friendly fire, gun crews were supposed to identify aircraft by silhouette and be certain before they fired. That worked, for the most part, until it was time for the “Great Crusade,” as General Eisenhower put it, to liberate Europe. The largest amphibious assault in history required a better system, one that was much more reliable.
After all, the D-Day invasion used the combined forces of a large number of nations, many of which did not speak the same language! I’m looking for the book that named all of the countries involved, though definitely present were British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealanders, Free French, expatriate Poles, and more. The communications confusion is staggering.
Now, if they were modern-day consultants, millions would have spent on newer electronics. Or on complicated plans of corridors of safe transit, and so forth. Instead, being people fixated on a crucial task and needing the most effective solution possible, they went with this:
They painted extra stripes on the airplanes. Big, black, and white stripes were painted on the wings or the fuselage of the aircraft. Everyone was given the basic instruction: “Don’t shoot planes with stripes.”
It was that simple. There was no sense of “take a shot at the Canadians if they get into our airspace” or “I’ve never liked the French.” There was a common decision that the enemy was on the other side of a defined line and the simplest plan was put in place to identify the good guys.
Then it was simply a matter of recognizing the obvious: the striped planes are for us. Leave them to their work, and we’ll go about our work.
Now, what has this to do with us? Obviously, none of us are headed to fly the Normandy invasion. By the grace of God, I hope our world never sees the need for that again, though I am pessimistic.
However, take a look at Ephesians 4:4-6 from the CSB:
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope, at your calling—5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
At this point, you can see where this is going. So, let’s finish it out:
We meet as the Southern Baptist Convention next week. There will be sniping and whining, some in-person and some on-line about many things that go on. We have retained a habit of shooting at our own.
But we ought not be that way. Let us remember that we are gathered together–some Traditionalist and some Calvinist, some rock-and-roll and some hymnic, some skinny jeans and some suits–for a greater purpose. Yes, our communications are complicated. Our interactions are challenging at times, and sometimes folks wander out of their lane and maybe even into the way.
Let’s take a look for the stripes, though, ladies and gentlemen: whosever is part of the one body, following the one Lord through faith, they are with us. Let’s paint on our stripes and point our swords at the enemy.
See you in Phoenix.
Oh, and I’ll let you do your own thinking about the idea that all of your fellow Christians in church with you? They’re in stripes, too.