DURING the 20th century, more people died in wars than all of the previous centuries put together.
Remembrance Day services will take place next weekend.
Most will be conducted within a loose framework of Christian Faith.
The familiar text ‘ greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ will likely be read.
Another relevant bible verse could be: ‘ all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ ( note that small word ‘ all’). Let me explain...
Last week, I visited the National Memorial Arboretum.
One of the most sobering memorials was entitled ‘ Shot at Dawn’. Here, there is a statue of a 17- year- old British soldier, blindfolded and with hands tied behind his back.
A row of trees in front of him represents the firing squad.
Behind him are 309 wooden stakes, each with the name of a soldier who was also shot at dawn for a capital offence.
Their crimes ranged from cowardice/ desertion to falling asleep at their post.
My immediate response was to think this was a harsh punishment.
‘ After all,’ I reasoned, ‘ does a dog- tired soldier falling asleep at his post deserve death?’
But then, what if the soldier’s action had the knock- on effect of letting the enemy through the lines, resulting in the death of many of his comrades and even altering the outcome of the battle which, in turn, could lose the entire war?
The fact is that what every one of us says and does has a knock- on effect for others and sometimes these are bad effects.
Our wrong words and actions, intentional or not, individual and collective, affect the world we live in, creating conflict within the home, the community, this country and the world at large.
This is why the Bible verse already mentioned says that ‘ all’ of us have sinned and not done that which honours God.
Whilst the conviction and sentence of those 309 men is unaffected, in 2007 the government posthumously pardoned them. When we feel the burden of what our own words and actions have done, there is a pardon to be found and received.
Jesus says: ‘ Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Again, notice that word ‘ all’.
It cost Jesus his own sinless life in order to make the above a valid offer of divine acceptance.
It is fitting for us to pay our respects to the fallen on Remembrance Day.
If, however, we really desire an end to conflict and strife, then it is my belief that we will need to acknowledge that we too are ‘ fallen’ and receive the pardon offered through Jesus.