Wednesday, November 10, 2010


A pile of remembering stones sits at the edge of my town, in the form of a boulder-encrusted cenotaph. It rises clean from the earth and points skywards, like God himself planted it. On its front the builders placed a polished granite plaque, engraved with names of men and women from the area who have served in Canada’s armed forces.

My three small grandbeans and I passed the marker while out Add Imagewalking one day. The sun reflected on the plaque, and while the children chased each other around its sloped sides, I stood running my index finger down the names, looking for one I knew.

The children noticed. “What does it say, Nana? Read the words!”

“The words are the names of soldiers who lived around here,” I said, and began reading. I stopped abruptly when I came to the word “KILLED” after one of the names.

“Why did you say “killed”, Nana?” One of the Beans piped up.

“That means this soldier died during the war, honey. He never came home.”

“Why didn’t he?”

More questions followed, each, like the cenotaph itself, rising higher, and narrowing to a pinnacle.

That didn’t come until days later, from the eldest. “Nana, does God love war?”

Yikes. Who said kids are simple? “No,” I told him emphatically, “God doesn’t love war.” At five, I thought, that’s all you need to know.

For now.

Christians have disagreed for centuries about war. Pacifists and those who believe in something called the Just War theory—that sometimes war is a necessary evil—each have their own reasons for their positions.

I’ve struggled with the issue myself—detesting my own tendency to box God in. But I’ve landed—barely, reluctantly, sadly—in the Just War camp. It seems more consistent with the big picture of Biblical truth.

One day when they’re older, I plan to discuss this again with my grandchildren. We’ll look together at Bible verses like Ecclesiastes 3:8, that says there’s a time for war and a time for peace. At Old Testament passages that reveal God instructing his people in the necessary techniques of battle against the enemy.

I’ll take them over to the New Testament, to the words of Christ—the Prince of Peace. Words that demonstrate that though peace is his ultimate objective, Jesus underlined the importance of battling for the things that maintain it: opportunities for salvation, justice, and protection for innocent, helpless people, and those in danger because of evil forces—wherever in the world they are.

I’ll do my level best to explain wrong motives for war—protectionism, greed, patriotism, prejudice, and nationalistic causes—and their consequences. Sadly, most wars today spring from those.

This column is a significant departure from my usual. Blame the important pile of rocks at the edge of town, and my very curious grandbeans. Because it’s for them, I need to say this:

Remembering is of no value if we thoughtlessly walk away.


(Note: the above is this week's edition of my weekly newspaper column, Sunny Side Up--Listen in audio at Nov. 10)

Kathleen Gibson


Peter Black said...

Kathleen, thank you for sharing with us your teachable moment with your grandbeans.
Oh yes, the simple answers don't always satisfy a young enquiring mind.
You also brought out the tension between pacifism and active defending of those things that make for peace.
May the Holy Spirit use the article to speak to hearts about eternal things, as your newspaper audience read it.

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks, Kathleen for tackling this hard subject. Although I have come to a different conclusion about war and find myself a pacifist, I do understand there is strong support from the same Scriptures for another view. My conviction is that harder even to fight is to love and that was demonstrated by the Cross. Thanks for providing an opportunity for people to think about these important issues.

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