Soldiers of WAR
The prophet Isaiah was inspired to write these words more than 2500 years ago:
“He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4)
In our world of wars and rumours of wars the idea that no one would even understand the concept of violence seems like a dreamy comment from someone who does not live in the real world of the 21st century. Yet men have dreamed of the idea of real peace for all for millennia, even whilst recognising that it is most unlikely to ever happen.
The First World War poet, Wilfred Owen, was one such man. He knew his Bible well but in one of his most famous poems “Strange Meeting” he wrote of war and peace with a sad recognition that a world without war or violence was unlikely:
The pity of war, the pity war distilled. Now men will go content with what we spoiled, Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled. They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress. None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery, Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery: To miss the march of this retreating world Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels, I would go up and wash them from sweet wells, Even with truths that be too deep for taint.
It’s a hundred years since that war in which Owen fought and died. Sadly, he was killed just four days before its conclusion. It was a war which changed the world forever, which is why it has been featured in so many media programmes and other events, 100 years on.
It was not merely the scale of it with up to 21 million soldiers and civilians being killed and maimed (depending on which statistics are used). Neither was it the gigantic industrial scale on which countries organised and prosecuted the war. It was, rather, the loss of innocence on the extent of what one human can and will do to another in given circumstances.
I believe this to be an event in which the moral compass of the world, for it was a world war, changed forever. When 20,000 men can be killed in ten minutes even civilians have to understand the horrific and continuing nature of what man develops. The legion of caring and heroic stories that accompanied the slaughter barely begin to balance the depth of violence that individuals and countries will perpetrate in the name of patriotism or even in the name of God – a God who commands us not to kill but to “love our enemies”.
This war was only “outdone” by the extension of it in the Second World War and the mechanised killing of 6 million Jews in the holocaust. If these are the lengths to which men will go to show their hatred of one another, what chance is there for real peace, never mind an absence of war in our world today? Russia marshalled its enormous forces to invade its neighbour Ukraine and repossess the Crimea. We read daily of wars in Africa, Afghanistan and Syria to name but three on-going conflicts.
Some people argue that there are benefits to war: improved medical practices, better social care following conflicts and better education systems. Others passionately believe in the causes for which they fight.
Ohlsdorf Cemetery WWI
One young man from Accrington had inscribed on his gravestone in France:
The French are a grand nation, worth dying for.
Others looked for adventure and enlisted under age, paying the ultimate price at the ages of 14 and 15.
There are people, religious people, who believe there is a concept of a “just war” and who would cite the holocaust as an example. Radicalised teenagers head for Syria or Iraq intent upon pursuing their personal jihad and appear to relish dying as a martyr for what they see as a just cause.
Most people who try to love and serve God according to His precepts given in both the Old and New Testaments would not think like that. The commandment not to kill is very clear, as is Jesus’ teaching about loving our neighbour as ourselves and his instruction that we must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. (Matthew 5:44). The Sermon on the Mount in the rest of Matthew chapters 5 and 6 demonstrates the philosophy of a life without sin and violence.
That is the lifestyle that Jesus will restore to the earth at his return. He shows a need for “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock” Isaiah 65:25righteousness; people who want to develop a pure heart and show mercy to others; those who have compassion for the poor, the sick and those who are ill-treated by society. Isaiah shows God’s world as one where the bear will eat straw like the ox and the wolf and the lamb will sit together with small children (Isaiah 11:6-8).
Psalm 72 speaks of this new world:
“Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s Son. He will judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice. The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He will bring justice to the poor of the people; he will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor…Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.” (Psalm 72:1–4, 12).
The Psalm continues:
“In his days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more” (Psalm 72:7).
The whole of this psalm is a description of a world without war. It is not a pipe dream. The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ for sin and his resurrection are God’s guarantee that peace − real peace in our world, here on our planet − will happen, that it will be real and that it will last. The last two chapters of the Book of Revelation describe a world where those who love violence and evil are utterly and permanently excluded and where people will have a real, personal and visible relationship with God and his Son in a world which will be at peace.
Almost the last verse of the Bible reads:
“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Jesus is coming to implement God’s peace plan. It won’t fail like those of the politicians from WW1 or since, who have consistently failed to achieve a real and lasting political peace, never mind personal peace. Only God and the Lord Jesus can achieve that. Would you like to be there enjoying that peace?
By Cynthia Miles