Reading: John 15:12-17Click on the reading to read it.

War, what is it good for…
My dad was 18 when WWII broke out. He was a merchant seaman. He told me that on the day war was announced, he was on route to deliver aviation fuel to the Ark Royal. He remained in the Merchant Navy, on the Atlantic Convoys, West Africa, Italy. He told me many tales about those times including the many close friends who died. Every Remembrance Day you would find him at a cenotaph remembering. He lived another 60 years after war ended and he never missed a November 11th, and every time, he would shed tears for those lost.

When you talk to those who lived and fought through the 2 world wars the most common reflections are of those friends and comrades who didn’t come home. There is little talk of the glory of war. More often it is the lament for lives lost, and for what? What does war ever really achieve?

This day of course, marks 100yrs of the end of WWI. I was reading accounts from letters and diaries from those who were there and I read this:

“In the last half an hour it’s been announced that the war ended at 11 o’clock this morning… the [soldiers] are singing, dancing and shouting at the top of their voices. Is this really happening?…” Taken from: ‘A War in Words’

This was an account of German soldiers in Belgium. The joy of war coming to an end was joy for all sides. The one thing that I think all sides of conflict can agree on is that there should be no more war: the cost is too great, too painful. I don’t know of anyone who still wishes we were fighting the World Wars.

So often my dad said, he and his fellow sailors would turn to prayer during those times and that was true for many who are caught up in conflict. Often these prayers would of anger or despair: how could God allow this? Why doesn’t he stop it? And this is where our readings come in.

Love one another…
Jesus said to his disciples:

…”love one another, just as I love you.” John 15:12

This command came the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. The next day, Jesus would be arrested, given a false trial and killed in the most evil way devised. He knew this but look at what he said or more importantly, what he didn’t say.
He didn’t say: ‘Make sure you get revenge on those who kill me.’; he didn’t say: ‘Remember, an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ No, he said, ‘love’.

The Challenge of love…
This is the challenge to all who declare themselves Christian – as followers of Jesus. Time and again the Bible makes clear how war and conflict can cease. But it is not always what we want to hear:

“What causes wars and fighting among you?…
Is it not your selfishness at war inside your hearts? Greed, pride, envy etc.
But God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:1,6-7

“(It is God, who)… makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear.
He burns the chariots with fire.
Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:9-10 

“[God] will settle disputes among the nations, among the great powers near and far. They will hammer their swords into ploughs and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again. Everyone will live in peace among his own vineyards and fig trees, and no one will make him afraid.” Micah 4:3-4

Why do we have war? God says it is because of our sin: our selfishness and greed. God doesn’t bring about war, we do. But the bible is also clear as to how wars can cease: it is when people really and truly turn to God; when we really allow His Spirit to enter our hearts, then there can be no war, because the only thing you find in God, is love.

This week has seen another mass shooting in the USA. The reaction of many in the States when the question is asked about gun control, is to simply have more guns. Many Christians in the states hold the bible in one hand and a gun in the other. How can that be?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Not the warmongers, not the gun-carriers No, Jesus shows us that if we really want wars to be a thing of the past then we have to love. But love will always involve sacrifice:

“The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them.” John 15:13.

What are we prepared to sacrifice in order that war and conflict will cease?

A chance for peace…
It was through great sacrifice that WWI finally came to an end. At that moment there was a peace and a chance that the world could change for the better. Into the darkness of war, a light shined

But what followed was an armistice that instead of allowing this love of Jesus to grow, sowed seeds of fear, anger, resentment and hatred which would within a generation, lead to a second World War where my father would experience for himself the pain and sadness of war.
There has never been a time when there have been no wars or conflict somewhere in the world. The light still shines, Jesus is alive and in the world; His words still ring out, but sadly, we don’t listen.

My prayer is that this Remembrance Day, those in power will hear afresh the words of Jesus: Love one another as I have loved you.

That prayer though is not just for those in power but also for us. Are we peacemakers? Are we willing to love? Are willing to sacrifice? So often wars begin with small arguments and disagreements, they can begin with you and me. Are we willing to love each other enough that we are ready to give our lives, whatever that may mean for us?

I want to end with some words of an elderly minister reflecting on the things that he had seen in his life.

“There are dozens of ways to deal with evil and several ways to conquer it. All of them are facets of the truth of that the only ultimate way to conquer evil is to let it be smothered within a willing, living human being. When it is absorbed there like blood in a sponge or spear into one’s heart, it loses its power and goes no further.
The healing of evil can be accomplished only by the love of individuals. A willing sacrifice is required. I do not know how this occurs, but I know that it does. Whenever this happens there is a slight shift in the balance of power in the world.” Taken from The Jesus I never Knew – Philip Yancey

May we work always towards a time when war itself is thing of the past.

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