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  • Writer's pictureGCI Auckland

ANZAC Day & Sacrifice

We will remember them.

The most common reading in ANZAC services is John 15:13 : ‘Greater love has no one than this, than he lays down his life for his friends’ a verse which graces countless ANZAC graves. The selfless acts of numerous soldiers ended tragically with death at Gallipoli, and indeed in many other conflicts on behalf of our nation. While we remember their sacrifice, let's also remember the sacrifice of Jesus, in laying down his life for us, to give us eternal life - including those soldiers who paid a costly price for service to country and kin.

Andrew Grills wrote a thoughtful article a couple of years ago discussing the "religion" of ANZAC Day, and how in many ways ANZAC day is becoming a more widely observed religious holiday than Easter.

Grills argues that by Webster's definition of religion, ANZAC day has become a powerful religion in Australia (and by extension this could relate to New Zealand) not just for those who have served in Armed forces.

There are common rituals, the laying of the wreath, the last post etc. There is a liturgy of sorts. Emblems and banners are displayed, pilgrimages are made.

So how should Christian's respond to this?

There are three options, Grills proposes, and these are:

  • Reject it

  • Receive it

  • Redeem it

There are some resonant themes that both those in military service and Christians can appreciate. Service, self-sacrifice, liberty, suffering, community. And oddly enough, while most countries would choose a great victory, Australia and New Zealand commemorate a massive defeat.

Grills says: "It sounds like foolishness, but Australians understand that this defeat symbolised something far greater. Here is another cultural entry point, for the Bible speaks of a far greater defeat that stands at the epicentre of human history. A defeat which seems like foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved is the very power of God (1 Cor 1:18). The foolishness is of course the death of Jesus the Christ, which is still a stumbling block to so many in all their ‘wisdom’."

He ends by saying: "There is much in the ANZAC religion that is good and noble. Like missionaries anywhere it is our task as Christians to applaud that truth, but show at the same time its limitations, and its far greater realization in the redemptive story of God culminating in the death of his Son for the sins of the world. To the extent that we do this we are ‘missional’. We use the dominant culture without capitulating to it, we redeem it, to seek to lift up Jesus our saviour."

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