Remembrance Day – or should it be “Repentance Day”?

On Remembrance Day we’re asked to honour the memory of those who gave their lives in the fight against evil.

But why were so many Christians involved in taking up arms and killing people? How were they convinced that killing another human being in war is approved by God?

A favourite Scripture used to justify Christians killing people in war has been John 15:13, that “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” “Friends” in that verse is taken to mean the people back home and your buddies in the trenches. You can fight to kill, therefore, when it comes to protecting your own.

But is it all right to kill fellow Christians who are fighting on the side of the enemy? The German forces in World War 2, for instance, were full of Christians, as were both sides of the Civil War in the United States. So Christians were killing Christians, and in horrific ways too, bombing, shooting, burning, poisoning, maiming, knifing, bayoneting, bludgeoning, breaking necks and strangling. But weren’t all these Christians supposed to be “friends”? By Christ’s definition of “friends” in John 15, yes, they were. Jesus was talking to his disciples when he said in verse 12, “Love each other as I have loved you.”

So what changed for his disciples today, or does “Christians loving each other as Christ loves us” no longer apply when war breaks out?

Well, why wouldn’t it apply? But for some reason millions of Christians in Germany felt killing was justified, even against fellow Christians, and millions of Christians in the Allied forces felt killing was justified in defence.

But what if the 60 million Christians in Germany in 1939 said, “We can’t fight against a Christian country, because the Christians in it are our friends. As their friends, therefore, we’d rather sacrifice our own lives on their behalf than kill them.”

It should have happened according to John 15:12-13, but it didn’t. And the result was the greatest massacre of Christians at each other’s hand that the world has ever seen.

All that well-meaning bravery exhibited in war, therefore, is, for Christians, a terrible reminder on Remembrance Day of how blatantly and brutally Jesus’ command in John 15 was broken by Christians. But the day need not be wasted if it’s treated as a Repentance Day as well, where in all the churches in all the countries where Christians went to war there is confession and repentance, enough to stop us Christians killing each other in war ever again, in remembrance of Jesus’ command to love each other as he loves us, not as the world dictates.

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