I imagine that a lot of you grew up like me hearing first-hand accounts of wars from relatives that had lived through them. Some of the stories were funny, some sad and some miraculous. Some of you reading this will have seen conflict first-hand, I myself have not and only possess a poor understanding of such things and in a lot of ways have no idea of what I am talking about when compared with the experiences of a combat veteran. I am happy to admit that I don’t know because I wasn’t there.
Some years ago I did some research into a family member who was killed in 1918 in France. Again I had grown up with various versions of what happened all containing the grain of truth that he was killed, everything else was implausible. What I actually discovered about the death of Sgt David Howell Evans of 14th Battalion Welsh Regiment was sadder than I could imagine. Put simply he was killed by friendly fire on 10th May 1918, as he and another battalion of the regiment were advancing on a German position in Aveluy Wood on the Somme, the supporting artillery barrage fell short due to a miscalculation of ten degrees, causing mayhem.
I believe there is an often repeated joke amongst soldiers that if you are being shelled it is more than likely to be by your own side. The sad thing is that this is true in the Christian life too. How often have we known of some dear brother or sister being the victim of ‘friendly fire’ from within the church when they are going through an already dark time? It can take so many different forms, ranging from being told you don’t have enough faith or there is unconfessed sin in your life or the trotting out of platitudes about the fact we are going to heaven when you are just struggling to keep your sanity in the day to day world. From my experience, this is unhelpful and can add to the hurt you are already feeling.
Going back to the Somme there is a memorial there to the 51st Highland Division which has this inscription in Gaelic ‘Friends are good on the day of battle.’ The Christian life is justifiably compared to a battle, simply because Jesus won the war at Calvary. When the times of battle come I would rather have somebody who just sat and listened and only saying ‘I’ll stand with you in this.’ This bears out what I have found with the band of brothers I have come across at CVM. We should continue to be a close-knit unit of believers, advancing together, supporting one and another and guarding each other’s backs. I could name names, but you know who you are if you are reading this. It proves the fact that we are not meant to live the Christian life in isolation; we’ll just get picked off by the enemy. If that means weeping with those who mourn or being silent and just simply putting an arm around a brother or even being open and honest enough to reach out if we are hurting, in doing so we are quietly living out the gospel we trust in and to paraphrase Matthew 25 v40 whatever little the good we think we are doing we are doing it for God.
Image Credit: Henry Hustava