July 20, 2014 marks the 45th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, which occurred on this date in 1969. Those who were alive at that time will remember that our nation had been challenged by President John Kennedy to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth before the end of the decade of the 1960s. This was primarily a response to the space efforts then underway by the Soviet Union. The competition between the two super powers was dubbed “The Space Race,” and it was taken very seriously by both nations.
Early on the Soviets held the advantage, launching the first successful man-made satellite, putting the first man into space, and into earth orbit. President Kennedy’s challenge shifted our space program into high gear, and it wasn’t long before the United States caught up to the Soviets and began to edge ahead. The Apollo 11 mission was the first attempt to completely fulfill President Kennedy’s goal, and on Sunday, July 20, 1969 the world watched on live television as the Lunar Module, Eagle, safely landed on the moon. A few hours later, Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the lunar surface. As he stepped onto the moon he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
this statement tried to put this successful effort into perspective. As a technological achievement, the entire space program, including the moon landing, was small compared to the much larger need for mankind to learn how to live together in peace. Even though the moon landing was the result of competition between diametrically opposed political systems, there were signs that going into space might actually bring us all closer together. Whether this hope was founded or not does not take away from its significance at that time.
Interestingly, Armstrong’s declaration has application in a manner he likely never envisioned. As we go about our lives here on earth, there is a competition between two diametrically opposed forces, each seeking dominion over us. Unlike the competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., however, there is no way for these competing forces to ever be reconciled. God and Satan can never be reconciled, nor can their realms, because they are of completely opposite and incompatible natures.
As we live our lives we are drawn to one side or the other in this great struggle. God the Father sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins so we may have the hope of eternal life. Satan, a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), seeks to deceive us as he deceived Eve in the garden so we will turn away from God and follow him instead. The competition is for our souls, and it is fiercer than any struggle mankind has ever experienced.
It only takes one small step for us to make our choice. That small step is to bow in obedience to God’s revealed will by being immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). This is how we enter the small gate that opens onto the narrow way that leads to life (Mt. 7:13, 14). One small step starts us on the journey that ultimately brings us to a home in heaven at the end of time.
This one small step results in a giant leap when we finally stand before God in judgment. We may call it a giant leap because of how much higher heaven is than anything we can imagine, or have experienced in life. The idea that mankind, as small as it is, can live forever in the presence of Almighty God is a giant leap. But it is a giant leap that is made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ and by the one small step of obedience.