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Airing It Out: The Truce Match

“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” I Thessalonians 5:15

Six years before the world’s first intercontinental soccer tournament and 16 years before the first World Cup, an international soccer game was played on Christmas Day, 1914.

It wasn’t just any soccer game. It was a game on Europe’s Western Front during World War I, five months after the war had started, pitting enemy soldiers from Britain and Germany against each other.

A “friendly,” one might say, in the purest sense of the word.

The game was part of the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, which has been chronicled in a movie (Joyeux Noel, 2005), a theatrical production (All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, first performed in 2007), a song (Christmas in the Trenches, by John McCutcheon, 1984), and even a TV ad (by Sainsbury’s, a grocery store) promoting chocolate bars in the United Kingdom this Christmas.

A memorial commemorating the soccer game played that day was unveiled in England in December, and numerous Premier League soccer games paused to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce of 1914; teams from Germany and Britain also played a “Game of Truce” on Dec. 17.

What it Teaches

There are various accounts concerning the details of the Christmas Truce, and even of the game itself, but at least one thing was certain: the truce was a welcome respite from the bloody violence of trench warfare that had shaken each man.

Also certain: Christmas songs were sung, gifts were exchanged, the dead were buried, and a soccer game was played in a place called “No Man’s Land” designating the area between trenches where fallen soldiers laid until something was done with their bodies.

The truce allowed the men to see each other on a personal level, helping them realize that both sides weren’t as bad as Satan himself— as they were all led to believe.

The truce also showed that singing, talking, gift giving and sports are international languages—understood at the simplest level and used to bring enemies together.

It reminds me of Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

One hundred years later, the Christmas Truce of 1914 is still bringing people together to remember that love, kindness, peaceful intentions, and friendliness will always be the path to helping people see the humanity of others.

I’ll leave you with this Scripture from Luke 6:27-36:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

By Brett Honeycutt

This column was published in Sports Spectrum’s Winter 2014 print issue. Log in HERE to view the issue or subscribe HERE to receive 12 issues of Sports Spectrum a year.