This is a copy of my article for the AUGUST 2014 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’

The Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War falls on 4 August 2014 and during these past several months, historians, politicians and sociologists have been reviewing what caused it and asking who was to blame for its beginning and its effect on the history of the rest of the twentieth century. But these debates mask the real stories of that terrible war – the thoughts, hopes and fears of the ordinary people that fought in the mud and blood of the trenches, or at sea or in the air. That’s because war is first and foremost about people, and people are individuals who have to make sense of the horrific circumstances in which they find themselves.

Some may choose to argue about whose side God was on in the ‘Great War’ but that is a futile argument, because God does not take sides in war. The Bible teaches that He is passionately concerned for the people who live in countries caught up in war and that’s because He made us and He loves us and wants the best for us. In peace or war God is interested in us as individuals. We see this In Psalm 116 when King David shares his heart (these words could so easily have been written by a soldier on the front line):

I love the Lord, because He hears me; He listens to my prayers.  He listens to me every time I call to him.  The danger of death was all round me; the horrors of the grave closed in on me; I was filled with fear and anxiety. Then I called to the Lord, ‘I beg you, Lord, save me!’ The Lord is merciful and good; our God is compassionate. The Lord protects the helpless; when I was in danger, He saved me. Be confident, my heart, because the Lord has been good to me.

One of the most popular hymns of the First World War opens with these memorable words:  “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home. ” And this ‘hope’ for many in our Armed Forces, both then and now, is one of the reasons General Lord Richard Dannatt, when he was Chief of the General Staff, instructed the Chaplain General to: “Make sure that everyone deployed on operations has some understanding of the Christian message.” Should they fail to return from their tour of duty. To make sense of war we can do nothing more than to enjoy the peace and freedom that is ours through the sacrifice of thousands and to place our faith and eternal hope in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ

The centenary of the First World War is not, as some suggest, a day to glorify war, it is a day to remember the horror and barbarity of war and its death and destruction. It is a day to commit ourselves, once again, to the struggle against evil, the struggle against the very things that to lead to war in the first place and to work towards the freedom and peace God desires us all to enjoy – whatever our creed or colour.

The Royal British Legion ( have started a brilliant campaign, beginning now and continuing through to 2018, called ‘Every Man Remembered’. It proposes to honour every single commonwealth serviceman who fell in the First World War and echoes the famous poem ‘For The Fallen’ written by Laurence Binyon in September 1914, just a few weeks after the First World War began, which has become synonymous with Remembrance Sunday:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

Please take a moment or two to remember the fallen on 4 August 2014.