Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Greater Love Has No Man Than This


PoppyLet me begin by stating at the beginning that I love my children very much. I love seeing what they are doing at school. I love being able to take some time to be present at their assemblies, such as I was on Monday.  As far as Remembrance Day ceremonies go it was your pretty standard affair. The teachers doing their best (but generally failing) to file the children in neatly and get them sitting in respectful silence. The welcomes and introductions. A poem spoken (barely) by the older children, the presentations of a wreath from each home room class. The presence of veteran to play the traditional bugle parts. And then my son and his class got up to sing. They sang beautifully. They sang with gusto. They sang clearly (and for the most part on key). I could make out my son’s voice and he is a credit to both his mother and his father. But what they sang was like nails on a chalkboard …

Put a Little Love in Your Heart.

Perhaps you know it. Here are just a few of the grating phrases i had to sit through: “If you want the world to know we won’t let hatred grow put a little love in your heart. And the world will be a better place …” “I hope when you decide kindness will be your guide put a little love in  your heart. And the world will be a better place …” I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea, or worse yet who agreed with them and signed off on it. But I do understand the thought behind it. It comes from a deep-seated misunderstanding that many people in our culture have regarding love and what it is. One that is intimately tied into their misunderstanding of Tolerance and Compassion.

For many people these days (people who for the most part have never really and truly had to face real war) love is often confused with appeasement. If you love someone you need to let them be. If we really loved, there would be no more need for war. If we really loved, we could all just get along. If we really loved, not one veteran would ever need to waste their life on something so foolish ever again.

It all stems from the idea that everyone is basically good and that no one really wants to hurt anyone else (or if they do it is only because they don’t know better, and a little kindness will show them the error of their ways). Perhaps we all watched a few too many after-school specials growing up. It is the kind of thinking that summarized in the recent (but certainly not new)  “white poppy” debate.

It is also, unfortunately, a thinking that simply doesn’t work in our world. And it doesn’t work because it refuses to acknowledge both sin and evil.  You see, no one in this world is basically good. We are all sinners, every one of  us. There are times when even the best of us has no qualms whatsoever with sticking it to someone else.   And there are some who genuinely enjoy hurting others, killing others, and subjecting others to all kinds of  suffering. And no amount of kindness is going to teach them otherwise. Not to put too fine a point on it, but one might ask the former British Prime Minister Chamberlain, how well his loving approach to appeasing Hitler’s Germany worked. Better yet, ask the Austrians.

This world is broken by sin. This world is pock-marked by evil. And no amount of school assemblies, children’s choirs, or after school specials (no matter how good they are) is going to fix it.  Somethimes the only loving thing to be done is to confront the evil head on, and not allow it to do any more harm.  This is the kind of love that God showed for us. No appeasement to the way things were. No, “I’m OK, you’re OK.” No desire to get along by letting things slide. Instead He took it upon himself to come down to this battleground in the flesh and stand in the breach. In love He choose the path of love that led Him to pay the ultimate price in defeating evil. In love He chose to give up His life in the battle that would set us free from sin, grant us victory over death and evil. In love He waged a war. In love He fought and He died and He rose again so that He might lead His people to do the same.

John 15:12-14a  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends”

And this, I think, is what is missing in so many people’s stundted understanding of war and peace, and the remembering of our veterans. They did not do it (most of them) to glory in war. They didn’t do it out of hatred … but out of love. Love for you and me and all who were (or are) oppressed. Love for Canada.  Those blessed men and women loved enough to lay their life upon the line. They loved enough to say “enough is enough” in the face of evil. They loved … and for so many of them they lost … all so that you and I might gain the freedom and security we now take for granted. And I can think of no greater love to put in my heart, as I remember their sacrifice for me, than a love like theirs … a love like our saviour’s … A love that is willing to lay down my life for someone else.


Author: kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.

4 thoughts on “Greater Love Has No Man Than This

  1. I feel like I have permission to disagree with you on things because our opinions are so close (I was 100% Augustinian too!).

    Trivia: Recent histories on Chamberlain have exonerated the man, arguing that Chamberlain realized the British forces were in no shape to fight the Germans and the appearance of appeasement was much better in buying time.

    Although you use it as an analogy in your essay, I think you lay too much blame on a Motown song. “Put a little love in your heart” is a nice song, and I don’t think the sentiment of trying to be more forgiving or kind is a bad one at the level of the individual or in personal relationships. But the song of course isn’t meant to be applied to Remembrance Day, and I agree that it was the height of touchy-feely foolishness (and disrespect) to play it for that occasion. I guess children aren’t ready for “Dulce et Decorum est,” but you’re right that it tries to explain away war as merely an unwillingness to let things be, with this wonderfully infantile sentiment that if everyone could be taught this “lesson” there would be no war. Aren’t these the same people who are always saying religious faith is childish?

    Christ praises the Roman centurion. An important biblical line, I think, in affirming that love is more than a Buddhistic closing of the eyes to injustice. Sometimes it requires force to defend the weak or to protect what it good. I wonder how these teachers feel about spanking–or how they logically justify any use of discipline in their classes at all.

    Maybe my tone is too serious. I am glad they at least commemorate Remembrance Day.

  2. Ken, thanks for your gentle words regarding my over-simplification of Chanberlain. I admit that I was painting in too broad of a brush to make a point. War places everyone in unenviable positions from which there is rarely a right or easy path to follow. I probably should have gone with more recent and more obvious examples of appeasment not working (certain extremist positions being given legitimacy perhaps), but I chickened out and went for something “safe” and also not entirely true as you rightly corrected me.

    And as for your comments on poor Mowtown, please know that I hold nothing against the artists or the song I will admit to NOT changing the station when this precise song has come on the radio in the past … but context is everything! And Remembrance Day is not the time or the place for such things (admirable as they might be in other contexts).

    Do the Koreans observe any kind of remembrance or memorial day? What is their culture’s view on war and peace and the role of their veterans?

  3. I don’t know what would be a better example. At one point the Anglo-Saxons tried a policy of peaceful appeasement with the Vikings by paying them danegeld. It didn’t work.

    Koreans have a different chemistry in their war remembrance, because they are a small country and have really never fought an aggressive or foreign war. They do have a memorial day (June 6), but unfortunately, from my perspective Koreans generally don’t get beyond endlessly (and do I mean endlessly) lamenting “how evil the Japanese were to us.” While they are somewhat right in commemorating this fact, there is little introspection or moral questioning about their own conduct or the justice of war as a broader ethical or theological problem. Thus while I don’t like to read about this wishy-washy PC attitude toward war, I do think the west is one of very few civilizations to regret war as a human failure, as opposed to simply mourning losing or being harmed as a nation during war.

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