Today is when we remember the battle of the Somme, I don’t know if my great grandfathers fought in this, I know they both served in the First World War but don’t know much more details than that.
War is horrific.
Real people get killed.
Real people suffer life changing injuries, both physical and emotional.
The First World War was called “The War to end all Wars” and yet we know the Second World War came hot on the heels of the first.
The 20th century is believed to have been one the bloodiest centuries of all time.
My grandfather, George Mason (if Hope had been a boy she would have been Rubén George Mason named after him) served in the 2nd world war, and had to stay on after the end of the war in Nuremburg to guard the Nazi war criminals. I’m guessing this kind hearted young man heard stories so horrific of mans humanity to man that you probably could never get them out of his head, I don’t know as I know he never spoke about this season of his life, at least never to me.
Looking at a war memorial in Portsmouth I looked at the long lists of names of people who died, and then looked at their ranks, lots and lots of low ranking navy personal died and yet very few senior officers.
As I thought more about the horrors of war two things struck me, thoughts of bravery and cowardice.
The cowardliness of senior officers sat back out of harms way with their plastic soldiers and the Gin and Tonics sending brave husbands, sons and fathers into harms way.
One of the great leadership maxims I try to adhere to is, “don’t as anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself”, leadership isn’t remote from the mess, pain and suffering of the people we are privileged to serve.
Nor in the economy of Love, the economy of God, is the life of General worth more than a Squaddy.
Every time I come to an event like today I wonder, am I a pacifist, I do reject the myth of redemptive violence (xx country did something bad to us, so we bomb them often hitting their women and children and hospitals, which causes more suffering, pain and hatred and fuelling the horrific cycle of yet more violence). As Ghandi said “If we take and eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth we will all be blind”.
Yet I do believe that sometimes intervention needs to happen. Someone needed to step in and liberate Auwitsz and say no to the advance of Nazi Germany one of the most evil regimes on the planet, for the sake of the innocent who were being slaughtered like cattle.
We admire Churchills ‘bulldog’ spirit, the underdog taking on the mighty, for the sake of justice and for the bringing in of peace and liberation from tyrany… And history has not remembered Nevile Chamberline so kindly, he tried to appease, barter and do a deal with Hittler.
As I thought about this, I was struck afresh how gobal politics reflects human nature, world relationships mirror local relationships, will we ever have peace accross nations when we as people can’t even live in harmony with one another?
I thought of the First World War, where people would rather exchange bullets than gather around negotiating tables, were the cost pride and misplaced thinking caused thousands of children to be orphaned. Are we people of peace? Are we ministers of reconciliation? Bringing people together in love, harmony and forgiveness? Seeing broken relationships restored one with another? Bring people to God to see that broken relationship restored?
Yet are we people of invention? People prepared to put ourselves in harms way for the sake of our fellow human race, made in the image of the God we serve? People not just called to complain about the system, but as Bonhoffer called the Church to consider to be “prepared to drive a spoke into the wheel of tyrany and injustice”? As Edmund Beurke reminds us “for evil to prosper all that is required good people to do nothing”
Yet I fear to often we seek to (like Chamberline) coexist with evil, apease wrong doing, barter or banter with sin, which say deafen our consciences but does nothing to eliviate the plight of the victims of the corrosiveness of the advance of the Kingdom of darkness.
Too often I wonder if I am like those First World War Generals sat in the comfort of my home with my cold beer, watching oppression, exploitation and humanities inhumanity towards each other and yet it is other people who are fighting this evil.
Perhaps all of us are called afresh to leave our sofa and fight with love and compassion, joining the ranks of our brother and sister foot soldiers? Realising the sacrificial cost to following the heart of God will be costly and yet going anyway being people of peace and reconciliation, the church should be putting herself in harms way and drive a spoke into the wheel of all that causes suffering, exploitation and injustice.
As I type this challenge I feel scared, I need you to help me in this quest, I need God to help me fulfil this call, I need something of the Churchill Bulldog stepping out despite the seeminly impossible odds asking the Holy Spirit to bring me the courage and the bravery not just to play at being in the battle (running around like a kid with a stick shouting “Bang”) but actually seek to follow the steps of Christ to turn this broken and upside down world the right way up for him.