'All's fair in love and war?' No it isn't!

Yesterday marked the one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I - 'the war to end all wars' - but it didn't.

There was a sense of chivalry in WW1 at least at the start - rules were observed and officers acted like gentlemen. But as the war dragged on the rules gradually broke down and the conflict became increasingly brutal. We see something similar in our Old Testament reading. Saul had died in battle against the Philistines. There were two claimants to the throne of Israel. Saul's general Abner supported Saul's surviving son Ishbaal. David was supported by Joab. The opposing forces met at the pool of Gideon and there was a 12 a side contest between the young soldiers. But the contest developed into a bitter all out battle. Abner a wiley experienced warrior was being pursued by Asahel the younger brother of Joab. Abner called out for him to stop. Asahel could have claimed a psychological victory - but he wanted an armed victory. So Joab struck the pursuing Asahel in the stomach with the butt of his spear. Both sides in the conflict were shocked but Asahel’s death led to further bloodshed. Joab went on to murder Abner after he had negotiated to change sides and join the forces of David.

As well as bitter conflict, war sometimes draws out love and sacrifice. ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Jesus' words are often found on memorials to those who died in the Great War.

Conflict is part of life. It is a part of international life as nations compete for power and influence - the international community has a framework and rules to manage it. (The Geneva Convention was signed after the conclusion of World War 1). Love and sacrifice are part of marriage but conflict is part of married life also. Couples need rules and a framework so that they ‘fight fair’ (focus on issues rather than trade insults about each others’ families) and learn to compromise.

Both war and marriage involve conflict and love and sacrifice. Passion runs hot but all is not fair in love and war. Let us pray for cool heads and warm hearts among our heads of state and in our homes.