Easter is a moveable feast. The latest day upon which it can occur is Anzac day. But not till 2038 will Easter and Anzac day coincide. Frequently, as in this year, Easter is close to Anzac Day. Inevitably they cast a shadow upon each other. Both are about paying the supreme sacrifice.
Australians, together with our cousins across the Tasman, remember the sacrifice of so many of our armed forces on Anzac day each year. It is right and proper to do so.
Christians, together with all sane people, find no joy in war. Peace, not war, must always be our goal. Yet when war is necessary those who take up arms on our behalf must be supported and respected. When they are injured in the course of such action they should be confident of our nation's assistance. When they are killed, we should give thanks to God for their sacrifice, and maintain fitting memorials to remind us, and future generations, of the cost of our freedom.
Pacifism is a misplaced and mistimed ideal. It is the ideal of heaven. It fails to understand the sinfulness of humanity. We may not like, indeed we should hate, the fact that humans are sinful. But there is no point denying the reality. There will always be a need for Governments to intervene in the affairs of sinful people to maintain order, peace and justice. Be it intervention within our society by the police or intervention outside of our nation with our defence forces – armed intervention is going to happen. We therefore need to be prepared.
We must pray and work towards minimising any armed Government intervention. Seeking our rulers' wisdom that "we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Timothy 2:2) is to be at the forefront of our prayers. Working for justice and the fair distribution of the resources of the world so that all may live in safety and security, is a key part of minimising the need for armed intervention. Yet when the time comes that we must defend life and society it is the duty of Government to take action and of citizens to obey their governments.
The cost of laying down life for other people can never be measured. The suffering of those who lose a loved one this way continues throughout life. Even though the cause was just and the action successful, the cost is as high as humans can pay.
Yet the sacrifices that we remember this week can heighten our appreciation of the cost of Easter. For, while we may die for the sake of a good man or our family or our nation – Jesus died for his enemies. To lay down your life for your enemies – even when they are filled with enmity – because they are enemies – is an extraordinary and extreme sacrifice. And Christians can never forget that we were the enemies for whom he died.
It is key to the message of Easter. "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)
First published 23 April 2006