Prays Together column image. Stock photo.
Steave Gipson is pastor at the Church of Christ of Exeter.

In 1914, the “last war” began. This war was beyond big—it was world-wide. It was also the first industrialized war where TNT and machine guns were deployed in mass. The world looked on in horror as young men walked, in formation, toward a barrage of artillery fire and unending volleys of heavy caliber gun rounds. One day of battle could produce tens of thousands of casualties. The scale of horror was so large that it seemed, to most observers, that it would settle the land disputes and grudges that had dragged on for centuries. It was not the last war in Europe.

In 1919, when the last battle was over, Europe was devastated. An entire generation of men had been decimated. The price of war was higher than anyone could have imagined. An entire continent grieved. Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey had been defeated. They would feel the wrath of a vengeful alliance of nations. They would pay dearly, not in lives, but in gold. Every year, they paid. The war-ravaged German economy withered.

By 1932, there was nothing left to give. The Germans were the shattered core of a defeated empire. They, too, had lost their young men in the war. With the burden of reparations and insufficient manpower, rebuilding their nation was more than they could manage. Poverty and rationing evolved into hunger and desperation. As children starved, resentment and anger flourished.

In 1933, Germany elected the National Socialist party into power. It’s leader, Adolph Hitler, promised to free the people from the defeat and despair that had brought them to their knees and held them. Six years later, he lit the match that would ignite an unthinkable Second World War. It was far worse than the first had been.

The First World War had promised lasting peace. In retrospect, it is obvious that peace is impossible in the presence of persistent enmity.

At the end of the war, the victorious nations tried something new. Instead of punishing their enemies, they helped them. Instead of demanding yearly payments, they offered loans. Though they held the axe of vengeance, they proffered the hand of mercy.

Western Europe has been at peace ever since. Germany thrived and grew. Japan, our other avowed enemy, became the fastest-growing economy outside of the United States. Our worst enemies became our best friends and friends we remain to this day.

Here are the words of Jesus from Luke 6:27–28: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Sometimes, war is unavoidable, but hate is always voluntary. Peace is not always possible, but it can be pursued. We can choose love, even amid conflict. When hate is present, everyone loses—both the defeated and the victor.

Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors, and guest laypeople, of area churches.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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