Earlier this year when we commemorated the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings. One of the striking things, listening to the stories of those involved, was how they looked back on those times with such fondness. Although they faced the horrors of battle, the experience of comradeship and purpose was so intense that those months were the highlight of their lives. Though they involved just a small proportion of their lifetime, those events had defined their lives. They always were veterans of the Normandy campaign.
Today I came across this quote from 1465 from a French Knight called Jean de Brueil. It’s cited in Michael Frost’s book Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture (Hendrickson/Strand, 2006, 117-118 ). De Brueil wrote:
Battle is a joyous thing. We love each other so much in battle. If we see that our cause is just and our kinsmen fight boldly, tears come to our eyes. A sweet joy rises in our hearts, in the feeling of our honest loyalty to each other; and seeing our friend so bravely exposing his body to danger in order to fulfil the commandment of our Creator, we resolve to go forward and die or live with him on account of love. This brings such delight that anyone who has not felt it cannot say how wonderful it is. Do you think someone who feels this is afraid of death? Not in the least! He is so strengthened, so delighted, that he does not know where he is. Truly, he fears nothing in the world.
I think this represents an important dynamic that we need to capture in the church if we are to evangelise and disciple men – a sense of comradeship, of common purpose of battling together.