Day 125 – Called to the Front
On: March 5, 2015 | By: admin
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Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:23-27]
I am writing on the day after the centenary of the start of the First World War. Watching coverage of the commemoration events, two things stood out for me: firstly the terrible chasm between what was expected and the reality. For decades, the British Empire had expanded through successful military campaigns led by gentlemen. There was a genuine confidence that this war would all be over by Christmas. As it was, it would take 4 years, not 4 months, and 9 million lives would be lost in the most appallingly horrific and prolonged stalemate in history. Secondly, there was a real sense, amongst the young men (and increasingly women) of the day, that you had to be where the action was, out in the fields of France and Flanders, fighting for King and Country. Even towards the end of the war, the celebrated war poet, Wilfred Owen, was desperate to return to the front after being injured and recuperating back in England. He was killed shortly before Armistice Day.
The War to end all wars was, of course, nothing of the sort. But the heroic sacrifice of countless “normal” people for what they believed to be a higher cause, continues to stand before us as an example of grasping the nettle and placing your life on the line. How noble this appears, when compared with the self-centred, consumer-driven indulgence of much contemporary life.
Back to Jesus’ words, the similarity, I hope, is obvious. There is a battle between two kingdoms. Not the Allies and the Central Alliance, but the Kingdom of God and the forces of evil. The war will seem unreal if we stay in the comfort of our own homes. But at the front, the battle is very real. The results of the war, however, are clear for all to see if we will but look. Widespread addiction to material prosperity, status, alcohol, drugs; unhealthy workhome balance leading to growing levels of stress and family breakdown; a growing divide between those with and those without, both within the plenty of the developed world and between established and developing countries. Need I go on?
Jesus calls us not to fiddle about at the edges, “trying to live a good life”, but to get stuck in wherever there is need and injustice. Just as the renowned Lord Kitchener poster announced that our country needs us, the Kingdom of God needs its members to leave their comfort zones and get out onto the field of battle.
Rousing stuff, and tempting to leave it there. But the hard work starts immediately. What section of the battle field are we called to? What weapons and protection are needed? What goodbyes do we need to say? We need to take a long careful look at the places we spend our days, and the people we spend them with, and ask God to show us how this is a battlefield and what He wants of us. It may be hard; very hard, but we will only find our life if we lay it down for Him who held back nothing for us.
Father God, clear my mind, strengthen my resolve, guide my feet, that I may go where You lead and engage in the battles that need fighting … for the extension of Your Kingdom and the glory of Your name. Amen