Remembrance Day certainly gives one pause to think about the world and the life we live in it. It has been a few weeks since RSL members gathered in the Cathedral for an early Remembrance Day service followed by the commemorations in the park and my mind is still affected by this annual day of importance. I find it difficult not to grieve the loss of life. I can’t ignore the names memorialised. I find myself strangely thankful that some died to defend us but equally thankful that not all died. I am a fortunate one whose grandfather left a German POW camp in WW1 and returned to his family. I am a thankful one whose father fired shots in WW2 but was never hit by one. I appreciate the sacrifices and all that I was spared but I can’t help thinking that war is really a blot upon our humanity. War speaks, at least at some level, to human pride and greed, to power over another and matters of self-interest.
The Christian world view teaches us that God created us to not be at war with Him or each other. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a very big jump to go to war with each other if we are prepared to be at war with God and therein lies the heart of the problem – hearts hostile to God.
Perhaps the enigma of all of this is that peace is often purchased with blood, a blood that tells the story of suffering. When WW1 hostilities formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the armistice, signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning, should have been signed in blood. It was a peace delivered by the blood of many.
Peace is so often delivered when the blood shed is sufficient to bring surrender. However, even in such times of peace, hostilities can remain with an enduring bitterness or a sense of unfairness festering. The interim between WW1 and WW2 gives testimony to this. There was peace that was not peace at all.
When it comes to human hostility with God peace was similarly delivered by way of shed blood. It was not the amount of blood that brought peace but the quality of the blood. The blood that was shed was considered sufficient to end hostilities and bring a real and lasting peace between us and God.
We are weeks away from the extraordinary annual remembrance of the birth of Christ. Before he was born, he was described as the Prince of Peace. What is often not understood at Christmas is that to end hostilities between God and humanity this Prince of Peace would shed his own blood. The Bible actually says, “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus Christ, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross…”
The great success of this peace was that the blood that was shed belonged to God. It was not shed during hostilities against us but in a sacrifice of love for us when the only ones fighting were us. The God we are hostile toward, sheds his blood in love to write an armistice of forgiveness. It’s a real peace because God harbours no bitterness and anyone who recognises the heart of the problem is not defending the fairness of the peace agreement because we know it’s a mercy we need but don’t deserve.
What is a peace if hostility remains? The Bible says that from alienation, hostility and sinful actions God has delivered a reconciliation that can make you holy, faultless and blameless before Him. The only way hostility with God can continue is if you refuse the terms of such a gracious peace. Too much blood has been unnecessarily shed because of such refusal so may God save us from that with a very Merry Christmas and a proper appreciation of it.