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.