Victory

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Today is VE Day, a day set aside to celebrate the 75 year anniversary of the Hitlers reign of terror and effectively ending World War 2 in Europe (although it did carry on in the Pacific / Far-East region for another 4 months, ending on the 2nd September 1945). Today is a celebration of tenacity, courage, the fight against an evil regime. It is a time to remember the loss and the sacrifice given. To quote Winston Churchill ‘Never have so many been owed so much by so few’. The victory was hard fought, hard won and in some cases it was a war of attrition, where victory in battles across Europe was determined by nothing more that which sided could hold out the longest.

It is a day that we should rightly celebrate, it is a day to hear the stories of those that remember, to be told of what transpired and why it happened, and who let it happen… John Stuart Mill, said in 1867, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”. It is a day when the current generations, who have not experienced war and death on that scale should look to the past and learn, for as George Santayana said ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’.

Yet one thing about this victory stands out for me today… this was a victory of might. It was about the biggest army, the best weapons, the most trained soldiers… it was about size and speed, instant destruction… even the end of the war in the pacific was brought to a shuddering halt by the biggest explosion of that time – the first atomic bomb. It was skirmishes, battles, a war and a victory fought and won through might.

But this idea reminded me of another victory, but to quote Doctor McCoy of the Star Ship Enterprise (kind of)… ‘It’s victory Jim, but not as we know it’. And although the quote is somewhat dubious, the sentiment behind it is not, the victory I speak of is almost the polar opposite of that won through might.

Given the scripture at the top of the page I think you may have guessed what this victory might be. It is, of course, the victory won by Jesus that removed, defeated for all time, the sting of death. It is the victory that gave all who know Jesus as ‘saviour’ their hope and joy. But this victory was not about might, for Jesus could have called legions of angels to his side, he could have come down from the cross if he chose, but he didn’t. What he did was something else entirely, and in so doing this he gave us a model for our lives… what Jesus did was show us how to win through submission. And it is such a powerful message to hear.

In 1 Peter, the book we have been looking at in small groups, there are two places that Paul speaks about submission. The first in regard to slaves and how they should respond to their masters in 1 Peter 2:18-25. Obviously, I am not suggesting slavery is right in any form as it isn’t, but Paul was speaking from the reality of his time. Now you may think I have lost the plot a little by suggesting that submission to slave masters is any example we should follow, However, his words carry a deeper meaning that are also echoed in 1 Peter 3:1 when he says ‘Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives,’.

Now hear me clearly, this is not about advocation slavery or indeed about suggesting that women should be subservient to men in today’s culture as neither of these things I believe (and if you read on in 1 Peter 3 you will find Paul telling men how to treat their wives!). In both instances in 1 Peter 3 Paul asks the listeners to think about the example Christ sets in 1 Peter 2. The phrase ‘in the same way’ is found for both women and men. Yet, the deeper meaning of both the verses refereeing to slaves and women can be found in this phrase in 1 Peter 3:1 where we read ‘they may be won over without words by the behaviour’. In submission to those in who may hold power over us, it is our reaction to adversity, our submission, which is key. (Just to be clear, if anyone finds themselves in any kind of abusive relationship they should seek help, refuge and a safe space to stay – this is not what these verses allow for at all. They cannot and should not be used to coerce, control or to justify cruelty to another person, ever).

What they do speak to is that of submission, to speak of the life that Christ lives, the life that is embedded in love, a love that came to its pinnacle in Jesus’ life when he submitted to the will of the Father, the accusations of the Jewish council, the ruling of Pontius Pilot and the nails of the cross, whilst all the time having the power to stop it all with a show of power. And why this route? Because any relationship must be based on two people wanting to be there, with the freedom to leave at any point… and Jesus knew that a show of power sets up the wrong dynamic… He wanted people to come to Him because they wanted to meet him in freedom not force or fear. If Jesus had displayed his full power would we love him for who he was or fear him for what he could do?

In the end Jesus victory in our lives is won through submission, first his, then ours… ‘we love him, because he first loved us’ and his love is ‘4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’… so, you see, love, and ultimately Jesus victory are always about submission. Celebrate VE day, enjoy it too, but always remember where our true victory lies and what it is based in.