I’ve been thinking of this story I read with Ravinia in second grade and then again in seventh. It’s about a man who drew close to God and had to go to war.
Write about war in a link-up on love?
He was raised in the mountains of Tennessee, very poor. When his father died he went a bit wild. Okay, he went very wild. Drinking matches, sharpshooting matches. But his mom kept praying for him, praying faithfully for her boys. He came back to church, back to the pretty girl there, came back to God and studied his Bible earnestly.
Then he got drafted for World War 1. He could shoot, yes, but he’d never killed a man, and didn’t think it right, couldn’t in all conscience go. But his church wasn’t one of those that automatically gave him conscientious objector status, and his commanders at boot camp sat down with him. A level or two up, a commander sat down with him and the Bible and they looked together at war, reasons for war, why it could be necessary to wage war.
He got a leave of absence and went home to his church, to his hills, and somehow during that time God let him know that he would be all right. That he could go forward, honoring God, and God would take care of him. So, he went back, submitting himself to the army.
He got over to France, had his share of suffering in the trenches, read his Bible, encouraged other men, stayed firm in his faith.
Then the day came when his group was to try to knock out a machine gun station of Germans. They were to circle round behind them, if possible. They came upon a few Germans unexpectedly who led them back to the German camp below the ridge the machine guns were on, and the small group took the German camp unawares. But the surrendering Germans in the camp called out to their comrades on the ridge, who turned the machine guns around. The Germans in the camp dropped, and the Americans dove for cover in the trees, some including the leader of the group hurt.
He, Alvin York, dove behind a bush and maybe a rock. Bullets flying everywhere, he picked out a head on a ridge and put a bullet between the eyes, calling out for the Germans to surrender. He said it was like shooting a turkey in the shooting matches.
But it broke his heart, to kill a man.
He pleaded with them to surrender so he wouldn’t have to kill them.
Because he knew he could.
Seven men came over the ridge.
Seven, to get one gunner in their camp.
He called out to them to surrender, and shot them all, last to first. That’s what you do with a flock of turkeys, so the leader doesn’t know the others are falling.
What could the Germans do?
Finally a superior officer asked in English if he should call them men to surrender. Alvin York said yes please.
He picked up another gun, had plenty of bullets, and organized his men to lead the Germans out.
Walking out they came upon another group of Germans, who, seeing many of their soldiers being guarded by few Americans, started to try to free their men. He put a bullet through the shooter and told the German commander to tell them all to surrender and join the line.
Did he have enough backup to do that? the German commander wanted to know.
Alvin York patted his bullet cache and said yes.
Single handed, he knew he had enough bullets to kill all the Germans.
He didn’t want to kill even one of them.
Because they were men.
Because God loved them, and Jesus died for them. Even though they were the enemy on this battlefield and must be stopped.
The German commander gave the order, and Alvin and his group of less than a dozen walked back to the American base with 150 German soldiers.
At base they weren’t prepared for that many prisoners, so he had to walk them further behind American lines!
“Surrender so I don’t have to kill you!” his words keep echoing.
Now, I dislike warfare, don’t get me wrong.
I don’t want to have an enemy, to engage in battle.
But I find in scripture that we are in a spiritual war. Whether I like it or not, willy-nilly I must fight or lose ground.
I’d rather stay the child, watched over by the fighting parents praying hard for me, loving me. I remember then how I freely loved others.
But God showed me how Alvin York had a heart like God’s.
Surrender, so I don’t have to kill you.
It’s a cry of love.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6
God’s heart for people is never without love. Wrath, I read recently in The Good and Beautiful God, by Jim Smith, the wrath of God is not an attribute of God but a sign of his love in this fallen world. It’s a parent stopping their child in no uncertain terms from running out in the road in front of an oncoming car. It will end when the new heavens and the new earth have no oncoming cars.
It’s not loving for me to go around as if people aren’t in danger, aren’t caught up in the spiritual warfare, aren’t blind to it.
It’s not loving for me to give them a shallow concept of the love of God.
The verses above talk of people coming to repentence, of knowledge of the truth.
Dismissive love, “It’s okay, God loves you no matter what you do,” is not the whole knowledge of the truth. For while God loves you no matter what you do, he also is sitting there with his gun calling, yearning, “Surrender so I don’t have to kill you!” Better even is the image, trust Christ, my way of salvation so the death you are living doesn’t end up holding on to you.
It don’t do to act loving if I don’t share the love of Christ.
It don’t do to give love if I don’t give the whole story.
It don’t do to love out of my resources without staying in Jesus’ love.
So I’ve been thinking about my part in the war.
About how Christians fight with real love.
About how love causes us to lay down fear.
About how we must wrestle with God, wrestle through our weakness to his strength made perfect. To show his love, not my own. To get beyond the point where affection runs out and only God’s love can keep me in the fray.
Do I have enough backup for that? I pat my Bible, yes.
This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son as a redeeming sacrifice for us.
For me, for you.
All thanks and praise to God!
(This was a long post. Thanks for reading. Please comment if you wish; I’d love to hear from you.)