Sitting in my home in Epping I am thinking about those who would have gathered with us early in the morning to remember. As we draw near to Anzac Day 2020 and reflect on the situation of how Covid-19 will affect our celebration I am reminded also of the many dimensions to this day and its meaning. This year we are unable to gather with friends, family and mates and share those elements of service and relationships deeply formed from our own or our family members Service. We are unable to touch deep within ourselves in that moment those things which are important to life.
I want to focus on another dimension of life on this day. My focus not only being on this Anzac Day but also on the Christian faith which just might be relevant to a nation’s war memories and the legitimate honouring of its war dead. It’s the insight of the apostle Paul who generated so much early Christian theology. Centuries later, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela (among others) would draw on this insight to great effect. What was it? Christianity calls for reconciliation between enemies.
For Paul, the enmity at issue was between God and humans – a notion jarring to modern ears, but not to his own contemporaries. What would have jarred for his contemporaries was his novel argument that God was the peacemaker. St Paul inverted the common idea that peace would come through humans cringingly appeasing an angry deity. In Paul’s theology, it is God who makes the declaration of peace. God is the friend-maker. Enmity is over and friendship begins.
This is the deep Christian meaning of reconciliation. And this way goes beyond loving enemies. It’s the “what’s next?” step. Reconciliation seeks abiding friendships. If the wells of Christianity are to be tapped this Anzac Day, it could be to encourage, support and celebrate the friendships between peoples all over the world, all former enemies from wars.
We might well learn from the ongoing relationships that have, against all odds, developed between those Anzacs and the Turkish people from that point of the campaign of Gallipoli. For us the ideal we seek would be that previous enemies need not only to be loved, but to be lived with.
Lest we Forget