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Cross of Sacrifice

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was, as we know from John 3:16, because God loved the world so much more than his one and only son, Jesus.

But the Cross of Sacrifice is not named as such for that reason.

Cross of Sacrifice

The Cross of Sacrifice can be seen in many Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemeteries around the world, in remembrance of servicemen and servicewomen who died, mainly in the two World Wars.

The design is more or less standard, being a tall Immissa Cross with corniced arms.

The most distinctive feature is the downward-pointing sword, the meaning of which is explained in our Battlefield Cross page.

Why "sacrifice"?

Quite often we read that soldiers gave their lives for the sake of their immediate comrades-in-arms or for their country. But it is more likely that their lives were not given willingly – rather they were sacrificed. There is a huge difference.

Certainly there have been Heroes (which we honour with a capital "H") who have been asked to perform a task that would quite likely result in their own death. There are relatively few people so brave, even in a battle situation, and certainly not the millions remembered by the Cross of Sacrifice. Only a few join a mission with the intention of dying, and those who do are on a suicide mission.

Suicide was a crime in Ancient Rome and remains so today in some countries. Most religions consider suicide a sin, although martyrdom is permitted / encouraged in some cases. In war, religious law is often ignored and a suicide attack that significantly harms the enemy is considered honourable. Or terrorism, depending on who and where you are.

There is also a distinction between self-sacrifice and suicide. When a soldier throws himself on a hand-grenade to save the lives of his comrades, that is self-sacrifice. He does not intend to die, but can see no alternative. Such charity, as we know from John 15:13, is praiseworthy.

A suicide attack includes the deliberate murder of oneself, the intention to die, believing one's death will benefit a greater cause. Suicide is also a complete lack of hope and faith. 

The distinction between suicide and self-sacrifice is a matter of intent. A greater distinction is between killing oneself (either suicide or self-sacrifice) and being killed by another (murder or sacrifice).

Murder, whether to oneself or to another, is evil. You cannot achieve good from evil, and if you believe you can, then you have reached your limit of human reasoning and must turn in trust to God.

Sacrifice is the killing of somebody for the benefit of the killer's country, ideology, or anything that is considered worthy enough. The beneficiary is considered to have more worth than the human, so we might as well refer to it as a god.

Since ancient times, slaves who have outlived their usefulness can still have value by being sacrificed to appease a god. Prisoners of war were useful sacrificial subjects in Hawaii, pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and elsewhere. Maya and Aztec writings show that the main purpose of some raids on a neighbouring society was to harvest human sacrifice subjects. Even today in some remote parts of the world, human sacrifices are made by witchdoctors.

Could any modern civilised culture consider human sacrifice to be moral? Of course not. And yet human sacrifice continues in the world's most technologically advanced nations; not by the witchdoctors of bizarre cults that live on the outer edges of society, but by those who have power and lead those "civilized" countries.

Wars, whether directly between opposing powers or by proxy, do not happen accidentally. Wars are not started just because one side "doesn't like" the other side. That might be motive enough for a drunken fight in a pub, but not enough for thousands of un-named people (volunteer fighters, conscripts and civilians) to be sacrificed for the sole purpose of appeasing the God of Power and Wealth. And guess what? The sacrifices quite often pay off and increase the power and wealth of the powerful and wealthy; hence the continuing popularity of war.

The Cross of Sacrifice is a statement to remember those who were sacrificed. It is a statement of profit and loss.

See also Cenotaph, Memorial, Soldier's Cross and Veteran's Cross.

The one notable exception is, of course, the death of Jesus. He knew that going to Jerusalem would result in his death, and we believe that his death was the only way to liberate us all from evil.

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