“No man hath greater love than this, that he lays down his life for his friend.” This Scripture is frequently misused to justify war. The quote comes from a passage in John’s Gospel which is very much about love. God is love, and we are commanded to love even our enemies.
This has nothing to do with soldiering. No soldier gives his life. His mission is to kill others while staying alive himself. There’s a maxim that in war it takes a thousand bullets to kill a man. If you calculate numbers of rounds and number of deaths, that’s probably an under-estimate. If a man wants to die, it only takes one bullet. When it takes thousands, it’s clear that everybody is trying very, very hard to stay alive. Very rarely does a soldier give his life; mostly he has it wrenched away from him with pain and horror.
The repeated use of this Scripture on military graves, and elsewhere, for the purpose of glorifying war, is an iniquitous abuse of Scripture. A soldier’s life is taken by the enemy, but also by the soldier’s own decision to take up the sword, and also again by those who encouraged, or enabled, or pressured him to do so. It is blasphemy to use the words of Jesus to justify any of this.