“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends”
This year we mark the centenary of the end of World War I. On Armistice-Remembrance Sunday on 11th November 2018, people in our communities and around the Commonwealth will be reflecting on the lives that were changed irrevocably, and those that were lost.
Some 65 million men were mobilised across Europe during World War I. Nearly a third of them – some 21 million were wounded. Another 8.5 million were killed and some 7.7 million were taken prisoners of war. All of them had family and friends whose lives were changed forever by the events of 1914-1918.
My great grandfather, 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders, died of wounds sustained in battle and is buried in a Commonwealth grave in the city of Gent, Belgium. Over the years members of my family have made the journey to see his grave and take time to reflect on his life that was and could have been. My great grandmother was given an opportunity to write an inscription for the head stone – she wrote this: ‘We loved you, but God loved you more’. As part of our journeys we have also visited the many graveyards and memorials throughout Flanders and beyond. Rows and rows of gravestones in every corner and street in all the villages and towns and the many fields dressed in white headstones, too many to count. The horror and sacrifice of war displayed for all the world to see, yet there is a stillness and peacefulness which envelopes your inner being as you take in what is around you.
During this season of remembrance, and particularly on Armistice Day - Remembrance Sunday, we thank God for the freedoms we now enjoy because of those, who in both World Wars and subsequent conflicts, laid down their lives for our nation and the Commonwealth.
It is important to note that throughout all of those conflicts, our sailors, soldiers and airmen and women have had access to the Bible, having been presented with copies prior to deployment. Over the years, many have testified to the comfort the Scriptures have brought to their lives, while others testify to transformed lives through reading the Bible.
In the New Testament, remembrance is centred on the greatest of all sacrifices that of the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’. And likewise, the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’. Let us never forget His ultimate sacrifice.
The holiness of God that transforms the world from brokenness to wholeness does so by healing. This is the basis for our hope. Peace is not something that you wish for. It is something that you make, something that you do, something that you are, something that you give away. The memories we recall this Remembrance Sunday should spur us forward in search for true harmony and peace throughout the world.