Bravery, Discipleship, Peace

Hacksaw Ridge.

I had half written todays blog (looking at John’s 3rd letter, two very different influential leaders which John tells his protégé Gaius to emulate and to give the other a wide birth… anyway maybe I’ll get it out for tomorrow). But I was struck by an article about this film in a magazine I was reading, and it really challenged me, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all.

It is the true story of Desmond T. Doss, a Christian (7th Day Adventist) and a pacifist, who refused to go into battle with a gun, yet he went unarmed into the heart of battle in World War II, as a medic, in one battle Hacksaw Ridge he saved 75 lives. The first ever conscientious objector in America to win the medal of honour.

In the clip he speaks of making a broken world much better.

We see to the dreadful way he was treated by his own side, mistreating his and acting violently towards him… Yet many who sneered at the pacifists assumed cowardliness probably owed him their lives through his bravery, risking his life to save those who had mistreated him, sneered at him, laughed at him and treated him with violence.

I am not quite a pacifist, although I have sympathies with their viewpoint, but I see violence met with more violence just causes more violence to escalate.

Ghandi once said “if we take and eye for an eye then the world would soon be blind”.

The Dali Lama says “Our primary purpose in life is to help others, if you can’t help them at least don’t hurt them”

Yet Jesus talks not just of turning the other cheek, but goes further than asking us not to harm one another, he tells us to “love our enemies”.

And the prophets of the Old Testament paints a picture of a day ‘when spears will become pruning hooks and swords to ploughs –and people will war no more’. Shane Claiborne and his crew have done turning illegal weapons of street war and gang violence into gardening tools.

I recently preached about refugees and homelessness out of the back of the Christmas story (which feels so topical this year… If I was a film maker I would love to have set a version of the nativity in Calais Jungle!). I got the kids to look at their Palm prints, their finger prints, the eyes of the person next to them and their ears too, talking about our uniqueness and our preciousness to God. I went on to say that each one of us “our price is beyond Rubies” in fact our worth is so much that the God of Heaven stepped down from heaven to suffer and die to save us. If that is how much he loves me, then that too is how much he loves my friends and my family, and also how much he loves my enemy too, the people we walk past, the people cause us to shout at them when they come on the telly. It’s not saying God approves of what people have done, but despite however awfully people behave they are still loved by God, made in his image, and the cross offers them eternity, new life, forgiveness, Grace and love.

I can understand Desmond T. Doss’ position, that when I am armed with a gun in battle I am trying to kill a child of God, someone for whom Christ died.

My mind wandered to the Armistice Day Sermon by my friend Geoff Waters who talked about the bravery of the stretcher bearers in the First World War who stepped into no-mans-land and carried off the sounded soldiers, both allied and enemy, friend and foe.

The image of the medic, looking to seek and search for the injured to bring to safety and restore to health, wandering amid the mines, barbed wire and mustard gas felt like a powerful re-telling of the story of the parable of the good shepherd. Yet to risk your life rescue an enemy solider, a person who may have killed your friends and relatives and stands for everything you detest, could be a powerful re-telling of the story of the good Samaritan, or perhaps it is a illustration of the verse that “whilst we were Gods enemies Christ died for us”. Dying for an ally is brave, dying to save an enemy is truly Christ-like.

I am a big fan of the pacifist author Shane Claiborne living in one of the most dangerous cities in America, Philadelphia, who talks of “risking his life for peace” and talks of peace and love being things he would die for “but not to kill for”.

The Cross was be considered now a brutal war crime, a crime against humanity, an act of extreme violence, yet inflicted on one who didn’t fightback, who chose the path of non violence I’m sure he could have relied a revolution by his oratory or by his divinity slayed them all, yet instead he “was led like a lamb to the slaughter” and who forgave his murderers.

We believe that love is greater than hate.
We believe that light is greater than darkness.
We believe that hope is greater than fear.
We believe that peace is greater than war.

Our world is broken, back-to-front and upside down.

The old story of violence breeds yet more and more violence, we need a new story and that story is actually a very old story, a story of a God who loved and died for his enemies.

I don’t believe our conflicts in our world are going to be solved by arms races, massive walls and diplomats rushing around the globe, but rather I believe peace is found in following the path of the prince of peace, the lamb that was slain.

Peace, Remembering

Blessed are the Peacemakers.

I have been thinking about Remembrance Sunday quite a bit today and I have been thinking about how we often romanticise conflict, when in reality it is truly hellish, death, destruction, mourning, pain and misery.

The problem is we live in a world of cartoon heroes and computer games which reset and everyone gets up again and restarts.
We live in a sanitized world of hollywood violence, without mess, blood and post traumatic stress.
I think our generation has lost the idea of the horror of war and violence.
Even in real warfare often soldiers no longer see the whites of people’s eyes but rather blips on a computer screen, removed so much by modern technology from the consequences of our actions, but for the family suffering drone attacks it feels very very real.If we don’t see what we have done, it doesn’t seem or feel real, but that doesn’t make not so.

Often we think of many of our actions as victimless, and yet no sin is actually victimless as it all resulted in the crucifixion of the Holy One, Christ Jesus.

I worry in our world we often see violence as a first resort rather than the last option, when every other avenue is closed.

I think too that often we have violence within our hearts, often the way we speak to people or about them can cause great damage… We all know the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” simply isn’t true… We can, and sadly do, cause massive amounts of violence with out tongues, our words, or our on-line conduct. Back stabbing and character assassination can be fatal for people without resorting to physical punches.
In a world that seems more full of hate, fear and violence than many of us can remember, we have the challenge to be bringers of peace, peace-makers, shoes fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace.
We serve the Prince of Peace that urged us to turn the other cheek, which is incredibly tough at times, to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us.
Although on some occasions conflict is healthy, the question is are we engaging in this conflict from the right heart, what is our motivation?
If it is a  love drama, bigging themselves up by running other people down, this is not the way of Christ…
Yet if truth and love are joined together we will want to see people set free and thrive, to see people flourish rather than flounder, grow  and move on and become more Christ like.
I think how can we expect there to be peace between nations when we can’t be at peace with one another?
We all have a personal responsibility to be bringers of peace, bringers of reconciliation, people of healing and not an inflicter of pain or brokenness.
The way of Peace is often the braver choice, non retaliation takes immensely more courage than to lash out.
So, the challenge to lets be people of peace.
Let our gentle answers turn away wrath, defusing tensions, hostilities and conflict rather than ignite and inflame.
Lets bravely and courageously make the world a less violent, hostile and nasty place as we seek to see the Kingdom of Christ come on earth as it is in heaven.
love, Peace, Remembering

Some thoughts on the Anniversary of the battle of the Somme.

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.