Peace on earth?
Fighting Christians: We Need a Christmas Truce
What if we laid down our verbal rifles during the holidays?

Most of us have heard of the famous Christmas Truce of 1914. For roughly a week before Christmas, the shooting of the First World War ceased, and carols were sung from the trenches and even together across no man's land. Capt. Josef Sewald of Germany's 17th Bavarian Regiment remembered it this way:

"I shouted to our enemies that we didn't wish to shoot and that we make a Christmas truce. I said I would come from my side and we could speak with each other. First there was silence, then I shouted once more, invited them, and the British shouted "No shooting!" Then a man came out of the trenches and I on my side did the same and so we came together and we shook hands—a bit cautiously!"

Gifts were exchanged between the British and German troops, soccer games were played… and for one brief moment, in one of the bloodiest conflicts ever, the guns were silent as members of two opposing armies united to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.
This Christmas season, I'm wondering if we might see something of the same spirit that was displayed by those soldiers in the trenches almost a hundred years ago.

Christianity as a house divided is nothing new. We have long been a people of factions and fighting, taking delight when our tribe or small corner of the Church increased and someone else's decreased. We defend the leaders of our parties, making excuses for all manner of behavior and error while being quick to jump and judge when prominent figures in opposing movements show the slightest signs of human weakness, or make a verbal gaffe. We divide and divide again over the most miniscule doctrinal points, and rather than coming together to discuss and resolve the greater doctrinal points, we dig our trenches ever deeper.

Technology has been no help in all of this, either. If anything, we have taken what could be used as a tool to bring understanding, connection and dialogue across our lines of separation and used it instead to foster animus, controversy and division. The amount of ire and vitriol has only grown as we tweet, blog and post things we would surely never say in the presence of those whose lives and doctrines we are criticizing. We have grace enough for those who are in our own theological camps, but all too often nothing more than scorn or mockery for those who aren't.

Richard Baxter, the great Puritan pastor of the 1600's said:

"He who is not a son of peace is not a son of God. All other sins destroy the church consequentially, but division and separation demolish it directly. Building the church is but an orderly joining of the materials; and what then is disjoining, but pulling down? Many doctrinal differences must be tolerated in a church. And why, but for unity and peace? Therefore, disunion and separation are utterly intolerable."
December 23, 2013

Displaying 1–9 of 9 comments

Tim Simpson

January 04, 2014  12:35pm

I guess it would help if we chose to speak to the person/people we are criticizing before going public and especially before using social media.

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Charlie Robinson

December 31, 2013  1:30pm

I call the Christmas Truce of 1914 one of the greatest tragedies of the Christian era. It proves that once again Christians are more dedicated to political ideals than to the reality of Jesus Christ. We are so entangled in the kingdoms of this world that the Kingdom of God always takes second place, and as long as that is true there will always be divisions and wars and no peace on earth. The world does not need to see how committed we are to being good patriots but to see how committed we are to the Prince of Peace. (Footnote: Maybe we should stop being so angry at Islamic Terrorists who kill others in the name of their God, when history is filled with Christians of every age doing exactly the same thing.)

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Jerry

December 30, 2013  7:54am

I've thought about "iron sharpens iron". It really doesn't !!! Let me explain: When you slam a knife against another knife at a 90 degree angle, both knives are dulled considerably and possibly even damaged. The perfect sharpening angle seems to be about 20 degrees or something like that - or put differently - optimally - Iron sharpens iron best when the knives are about in 80% alignment with each other. So how do we get in 80% alignment with each other - and let the other 20% do the sharpening? I think this is a good start: Let's make Jesus our 80% - and let's make everything else our 20%. How about that? Bob - there is one thing I absolutely believe about you - and that is this: You LOVE Jesus. That day on that battle line - I think those guys came together and said just what you have said - "What are we doing? - Why am I wanting to kill this person who loves Jesus so much?"

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sheerahkahn

December 27, 2013  5:12pm

I'm not trying to stir the pot...good G-d, if anything, I'm tired...but right now my entire denomination is going through a split...and it is sad sight to see, much less be a part of...we can't even agree about the divinity and uniqueness of Y'shua as being the Son of the living G-d, and the bible...well, I just found this out recently, man I must be living under a rock for this one to escape me...apparently to a large majority of my denomination, the bible is just an archaic tome of suggestions. I just want to walk away from it all...Jeremiah Johnson style...the mountains...they call to me.

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Kevin

December 27, 2013  7:52am

I think Bob's point is that we should be a little more charitable towards fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. By that I mean (and Bob I'm assuming you do as well) those of us who adhere to the theological tenants of the Apostle's Creed. Christ WAS born of a virgin, Christ DID rise from the dead, Christ is THE way, THE truth and THE life. Disagree about things? Certainly. But should fellow believers who feel differently about baptism, for example, or even how we engage with the larger culture, behave like Democrats vs. Republicans debating Obamacare? I think Bob is simply saying no. We can discuss and disagree and make points without getting personal, or nasty. For those of us who believe that this world is not our home often act just like it when posting on Christian comment sections of this site and many others. For the record, Sheerahkhan, I don't think you do that. I love reading your stuff. It's blunt, but usually dead on and never personal. And taking time during Christmas (and Easter) to not disagree, but celebrate what we DO agree on (see above), is certainly something I'm all for!

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Bob Hyatt

December 26, 2013  12:03pm

Well, I could respond. There's certainly enough there to talk about for awhile! But in the spirit of the article, I guess I will just say... Merry Christmas, brother! :)

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elegance

December 24, 2013  8:58pm

Merry Christmas sheerahkahn; I couldn't have put it better myself.

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sheerahkahn

December 24, 2013  3:05pm

"...and just be followers of Jesus." Mr. Hyatt, Where it so simple as that. "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." There is always something that divides us. "Let's forget, just for a moment that we are progressives, conservatives, emergent, Anabaptist, young-restless-and-reformed- that we are pro-gay marriage or pro-traditional families, that we are egalitarians or complimentarians, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox…" There is something we will always find disagreeable with each other "There will be many who come in my name, but do not be deceived." And so we struggle to remain pure... "My God is a God of love, and he loves me just as I am because he made me who I am." And often times we get confused which is the right way, and which is the wrong way... "There seems a way that is right to man, but that way leads to death." So we watch, listen, and like the Bereans, weighing each and every word against scripture... "The scriptures are good for teaching, rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness." But what happens when one person seeks all that is good in G-d, seeks all that is holy about G-d, who follows Jesus's commands "If you love me, you will obey my commands." And the other person just doesn't see Jesus as the savior, or as Son of G-d? "Man's heart is dark, evil, and who could know it?" We seek to do good, we seek holiness, but for some...Jesus is still a cute little mythology that is an "illustrative of how we should love each other." "And he drove the money changers out of the temple, crying, "You will not make my fathers house a den of thieves!" Ignoring all those parts about G-d's holiness, his call to obedience, and to humble ourselves...these same people tell us Jesus isn't "the only way to God...there are many paths to God, love is the best one." Sure, we could call a truce, Bob, but there is one thing we, as followers of G-d have to remember how the world views peace... "Peace only comes through superior firepower" that is the worlds view of peace...that intermittent space of time between chaos and war. I know, I know...a moments peace is a longing we all desire...and that is because we know what peace is...Y'shua taught us that, the Holy Spirit reinforces that knowledge, and G-d gives us visual glimpses of that peace...admittedly, sporadic, but I think he does it to give us an understanding of the world he is going to bring with him. This World on the other hand...doesn't have a clue what peace is...doesn't even know what that word means, and further, doesn't even know how to keep if they did stumble on it. There are many, many people who claim to be followers of Christ...but we are to remain diligent, wise as foxes, and as agile as Pika's being hunted by Hawks in our dealings with each other, and with the world. "Live as peaceably as you can with the world, but know this is not your home." This is not our home...we're just passing through.

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Dan from Georgia

December 24, 2013  2:15pm

Good article. I too have taken a few shots across the bow of my camp towards those who I thought were my enemies, just to prove a point or make my ego even larger. Point well taken: just because you have a shot, doesn't mean you need to take it!

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