My dear grandmother died almost a year ago aged 100! She often told me how as a girl she saw burning enemy Zeppelins falling from the sky over London in the First World War. She remembers being held by her father as she cried for the “…burning men” who were in those ships. I also have the diary of my grandfather who was aboard the U-boat hunter HMS Starling during the Second World War. He graphically recorded one of the deafening sea battles where he thought he was going to die. Those memories have caused me many times to ask myself the question “What would I be prepared to lay my life down for?”
Every year at remembrance services, I stand for the minute’s silence and think of that question, but must admit that I struggle to break through the politics of the last 100 years of war to feel the overwhelming sense of gratitude that tradition expects me to feel. Instead, I thank God for my social freedoms and what it cost others, then try to focus on the greater sacrifice of the Lord Jesus which bought my complete and eternal freedom. Can I admit a further weakness? Because I sometimes struggled to make an emotional link between His sacrifice and myself, I looked to various examples to move me – the heroic deaths of soldiers from various wars, married friends of mine who were prepared to die for each other when gunmen entered their Church and began killing etc. However, I couldn’t make that connection with the un-naturalness of Christ’s sacrifice.
It was un-natural because I wasn’t born when Jesus died, didn’t fight alongside Him or share in His struggles, and didn’t have any form of relationship with Him at the time of His death. The love was all on His part and He even died for enemies and for sins not His own! What kind of love is this? What changed all this for me was when I stopped considering the dead and started considering the living. I realised that Jesus was alive, that I have a living relationship with Him, and that I do fight alongside Him and share in the struggles of His people. I now find that the more alive my relationship with Jesus is, the more I have to contemplate in the minute’s silence. Remember the dead, but pay more attention to the living.