1 John 3.16–24
For Christians, self-sacrifice should be ordinary, not extraordinary. — David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide (Kindle Locations 15550-15551). Presbyterian Publishing Corp. Kindle Ed’n.
Wednesday is Anzac Day. 103 years ago on 25 April, the Anzac forces—and, don’t forget, the Turkish soldiers too—would’ve been going through hell.
We sang the 23rd Psalm today; some of the Anzacs will have been reminding themselves of the words of that psalm. Later we’ll say the Lord’s Prayer; some will have been saying that prayer. They must have been praying above all for it to stop, so they could go home to their sweethearts and wives. After all it was General Douglas MacArthur who said:
The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.
We know of course that these scars are not just obvious ones such as lost limbs. They are post-traumatic stress disorders, they are alcohol and drug problems, they are homelessness, depression, broken marriages and chronic unemployment.
You may have heard that Australia became a nation on 25 April 1915. Of course, that’s not literally true. We became a nation on 1 January, 1901. What actually happened on that day at Anzac Cove was that we suffered our first great disaster as a nation. Over 620 men died on that one day. All together, Gallipoli cost the Allies 141000 casualties, of whom more than 44000 died. Of the dead, 8709 were Australians and 2701 were New Zealanders. More than 85000 Turks died.
As a nation, we had to make some sense of it for ourselves. So—apart from that last part, apart from the casualties the Turks suffered—Gallipoli has become our founding myth. Like so many myths, parts of it are true. But only parts.
To mention but one aspect of the myth: mateship. It’s true. But Jesus challenges our notions of mateship. He calls us to spread our circle of mates very wide indeed. Jesus has mates in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. Therefore, so do we. The amount of foreign aid we give is a very small proportion of GDP, and it’s getting smaller. We have mates on Manus Island and Nauru. For Jesus, mateship has no limits. The big question for us is this: Are we acting like mates to them?
How can we speak truth about the Anzac story, while being true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Let me suggest two ways: we can honour those who served their country in time of war while we critique the politics that sent them off to war; and we can watch our language when it comes to speaking of ‘sacrifice’.