During World War One and World War Two, millions of people gave their lives to protect those that they cared about. As we think about their sacrifice, Christian organisation Make Jesus Known want to encourage us to help our children also remember the one who made the greatest sacrifice for us all. Here, Tim Cooke tells his great-grandfathers story, and offers up three top tips for talking about VE day with children and young people.
Just over 100 years ago, my great grandad fought, like so many other men, in the trenches as the greatest war the world had ever seen, the battle between good and evil, freedom and slavery, raged around the globe.
One night he went on patrol with his unit and they were walking on what were called duck-boards - these were wooden slats that covered the ditches to stop you falling in. It was pitch black and they walked in complete silence for fear that the enemy would hear them and gun them down. As they were patrolling, there was a sudden chaos and the hand that my great grandad was holding suddenly let go and there was a splash in the water. In the pitch black, he fumbled around trying to find another hand and when the relief was felt, they continued on the patrol.
Later on as they returned to base, it became clear that the hand that my great grandad was now holding was not the soldier who was there when he left. That soldier had fallen off into the watery ditches, and silently laid down his life to save his friends.
The Bible tells us about someone who silently laid down his life. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, a guy called Isiah was inspired by God to write the following in chapter 53 of his book. He says that Jesus would be oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word: "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, but he didn't open his mouth... pierced for our transgressions... crushed for our sins... He was beaten so we could be whole, he was whipped so we could be healed... the Lord laid on him the sins of us all."
I still find it incredible that a nameless soldier was willing to lay down his life for my great grandad. But how much more amazing is it that the Son of God, the pure, perfect one, loves you so much that he was willing to give up his life, to take your sin, so that you could be forgiven, free and adopted as a child of God.
Two thousand years ago, Paul wrote to some other Christians in Rome - and he said very rarely, someone might be willing to die for a good person, but God shows his love for us by dying for us whilst we were sinners. This is God's free gift to you and me. Jesus gave his life so that you could be forgiven and adopted as his child.
Around the same time as the first world war, there was a man called Charles Stud who played cricket for England. He was incredibly wealthy but he left everything to become a missionary. He said: "If Jesus Christ died for me, then no sacrifice I make for him can be too great."
How to talk to children about VE day in light of Jesus
- Use a war story, either one from your own family or Tim's from the video to be able to help them understand what it might have been like to be at war and to give it some context. It also helps when you tie it back to Jesus, if they've got a story to think about and relate to.
- Breakdown words or phrases that might need the definition simplifying or an additional explanation, such as 'sacrifice' or 'laid down his life', so that children fully understand.
- Be clear on how brave and fearless it is to lay down your life in combat for the sake of others. Use that to reinforce how Jesus also did just that - for each and every one of us to be able to get access to God forever.
Tim Cooke is the founder of Make Jesus Known. This blog was taken from a video made by Make Jesus Known, visit their website for more details: https://makejesusknown.com/.