When we commemorate ANZAC Day, few of us will have any idea of the cost of World War I in which the ANZAC legend was forged – 9 million soldiers dead, 8 million civilians dead, 8 million horses dead. Apart from the dead, there were many millions of other causalities – 28.5 million soldiers wounded, missing in action, sick or taken prisoner. The War left 5 million widows, 9 million orphans and 10 million refugees. It cost around $250 billion in today’s money. But as bad as the War was, the Spanish Flu of 1918 and 1919 killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people around the world. It was second in the whole of human history only to the Black Death of 1348-1351 that killed 60 million people. The cost of the Spanish Flu was around $1 trillion in today’s money.
The cost of the War and the Spanish Flu that was spread as soldiers returned home in terms of human lives and financial resources was enormous. Little wonder, then, that we say, ‘Lest we forget’.
I have been curious about what might have been the topic of sermons during the War. I recently found a book titled Christ and the World at War, published in 1917, 'in response to a definite request from a neutral country in Europe'. The book contains sermons delivered in churches in England. One was delivered in 1916 by the Archbishop of Canterbury that took Ephesians 5:16 as its text: 'Redeeming the time, for the days are evil'. The theme of the sermon was that we needed to do all we can to claim the present for the best uses, to fight against evil of every kind. The Archbishop quoted from another churchman, Rev LP Jacks: 'The religion of peace cannot hold its ground unless it is prepared, when the occasion arises, to transform itself to a religion of strife. That such occasions do arise is a fact written large in all moral experience...'
It is well for us Christians to be reminded that, although we are not in a situation as dire as World War I, we are still living in evil days and we must have the resolve to fight the spiritual battle that is before us. Our advantage is that we know beyond the shadow of doubt that Jesus will return to rule and reign. In the meantime, our amoury is the Word of God, the Bible. With the truth contained therein, we wage our war, 'Redeeming the time, because the days are evil'.
Note: Data on the costs of World War I vary as records are incomplete. My main sources are the tables available at http://www.centre-robert-schuman.org/userfiles/files/REPERES%20–%20module%201-1-1%20-%20explanatory%20notes%20–%20World%20War%20I%20casualties%20–%20EN.pdf and Garrett, TA (2007), Economic effects of the 1918 influenza pandemic: Implications for a modern-day pandemic, Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, Nov available at https://www.stlouisfed.org/~/media/Files/PDFs/Community-Development/Research-Reports/pandemic_flu_report.pdf?la=en.
Questions for discussion
1. Reflecting on contemporary nations, what would you say are the most important spiritual battles being fought by Christians?
2. With reference to question 1, to what extent do you think Christianity should be a 'religion of strife'?
3. How might we 'redeem the time' in business?