1 John 3:20
If our heart should condemn us, know that God is greater than our heart and He knows all things.
Look to Jesus, listen to His Word. Today is ANZAC day. A day commemorating the landing at Gallipoli in Turkey. A disastrous campaign marked by death, innovation and resilience. An event that has become a sort of birth for Australian and New Zealand national identity, truly to some a holy-day; that blood spilled marking the ground as holy to Australia, a proclamation of our island nation born in war. Now there were commemorations that year, offerings given up for the wounded soldiers, and a call for more to risk the sacrifice of their lives. Yet through the years it had become less popular, especially after the Vietnam war, then just a few years before I was born there was a revival. There are now pilgrimages to the sites of WW1, and a broader commemoration for all those who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping, and for the contribution and suffering of all who have served.
It is a day to mark lives lost in service to Australia. A day of mourning and gratitude. And yet it is also Good Shepherd Sunday, when Christians hear again Christ’s Word that He is the Good Shepherd to give up His life for His sheep. Those men and women left their country and lost their lives, I do not know their reasons. Yet we do know why Jesus died on Good Friday; it was for love of us, of you, even of all people of all nations, all of this broken creation. And in war, neither side truly knows if the deaths will result in victory like a shepherd dying to a wolf does not know if the sheep will stay safe. Yet Jesus knew, He knew He would lay down His life for the world, only to take it up again in Victory! He has the authority.
In His victory over sin, death and the devil; Jesus gave up His life for us. Not just in death but also with every breath; Jesus died for you, and also lives for you. This is how we know love. It is not love to dehumanise others as the British did the Germans and Japanese, it is not love to relish a kill count or the brutalisation of your enemies. Yet to stand against the desire to murder, to stand against concentration camps, gulags, genocide, to stand against those who plan the death of your family and friends, community and country; to live your life for others, even the life of your enemies; that is love. That is the love we have received, that is the love we are called to live.
We ought to lay down our lives for our family. I’m learning this more and more as my children grow, my life is not about me. And John continues, If you have material possessions, see your brother or sister in need and have no pity on them, no pain in the gut; how can this love of God be in you? As John wrote, the Holy Spirit instructs us to love not with just our words or empty speech, but with action and in truth. Do you? Do you live for others, for those in this congregation, parish, in your communities? Are you willing to die for them as Christ died for you? You know what is right, do you do it? Or does your conscience condemn you?
Hear what your conscience says, and look to Jesus. You know who you are in Christ, a baptised child of Our Heavenly Father, united to Jesus His Son, by the Holy Spirit who is now at work in your life. If your conscience condemns you, telling you that you are a failure and deserve abandonment for what you have done, for what you have failed to do; know that God is greater than your conscience and He knows everything. He knows everything you have done and everything you could have done; and also He knows His love for you, He knows what Jesus has done, the great victory is won, and He knows what He has promised to you. You cannot keep anything from Him.
If your heart condemns you, look back to Jesus and listen to Him. Confess your sins and hear again His Word, I forgive you. Hear again who you are in Christ, child of God, forgiven, beloved. Hear again His call into His victory, in the only war that truly matters, that against sin, death and the devil. We are soldiers in a war that is already won, but now is not the time for rest. The war is won, but is not yet finished. Everyday we still battle sin, death and the devil; in big ways and small. We are soldiers of Christ, living in His love, His victory; and we are called to live this love for all God’s creation, to bring His victory to all people, this is evangelism. To recruit the civilians who are suffering, the non-Christians in your life. To defend and support our brothers and sisters in arms, the Christians in our lives. To point us all to Jesus our Lord and God, to listen to His commands; I forgive you removing your sin, I am with you always, even if you die yet shall you live, it is done.
Your heart, your conscience is right to trouble you; God has given this gift of conscience to all people, written the law on our hearts, and yet your heart is not Lord and God. God is God. So as you go out know that God has said you are forgiven and have confidence before Him, your conscience now speaks against God if it condemns you. So go out reflecting on the love shown to you, the love shown in those best of our armed forces, and seek to love as Jesus first loved you; and if you fail come back to Him and receive His love anew. As you go out into battle, know that we are not alone, we have each other to love and be loved in word and action; and look not to yourself to know what is true, rather look to the Lord Jesus, listen to Him for His Word is truth.
Beloved of God, His peace which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and unto the end of all war. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.