Thoughts On Religion At The Front - Ch. 7
( Originally Published 1917 )
THE Christian religion is salvation because it starts from what God is. Everything in it of human benefit and satisfaction is a bye-product flowing from the fact that it gives to men a focus for their devotion and attention not in themselves but in God. its main motive is not self- but God-regarding.
It draws men out of the entanglement into which they fall through temporising with their own needs, and constrains them to attend to God's need His need of them. For the Christian, God is not some shadowy supreme Being at the back of the universe, or a name given to the sum of things. God is the Person Who made, and loves, and therefore wants His children.
Hence Christian prayer primarily is grateful and loving acknowledgment of what God is, and only secondarily the expression of anxiety, or the " putting in" of this or that claim for what we want.
That is the conclusion which war experience drives home. The special strain and pressure of war cannot elicit from the majority of men the religion which is occupied with the saving of self. The spiritual law is that we find our life by losing it, not by saving it. In a vague and unexpressed way, as they show again and again by their cheerfulness and unconcernedness, hosts of men in this war have laid hold on this Iaw. They have found a purpose to which to cleave, something to give themselves away for.
Only it is hardly acknowledged, but rather lies below the level of mental apprehension and expression. It is the function of Christianity to raise this unacknowledging trustfulness and self-giving out of dumb subconsciousness, and to give to it speech, and to crown it with the glory of fully human self-devotion. It is its part to declare that it is God Whom they find in the offering of themselves, His love in which they can lose themselves, His purpose to which they can cleave, His will to be done—and that to give Him joy is the supreme end of man.
This is the religion which sustains in war, because possessed in peace. And it is so little prevalent—that is, so little in any one's conscious possession-in war just because God, and His love, and His desire have been so little in men's thoughts in peace. Let peace return let the strain of war be lifted from a unit as it goes back into rest, or from an individual as lie goes on leave, and the life of indulgence, without an object except self, threatens to repossess the soul. In the same way it is peace rather than war, health rather than sickness, youth rather than age, which really test the reality of our Christianity, when, without the shame of being driven thereto by need, a man can rejoice in God, and with full powers be made the instrument of His will.