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Erich Remarque’s book, All Quiet on the Western Front tells of a remarkable encounter between two enemy soldiers during the Second World War. During the confusion of an infantry attack a soldier plunged into an out of the way shell hole. There he found a wounded enemy. The sight of the man moved him so much that he gave him a swallow from his canteen. Through this bit of human kindness a certain brotherly bond immediately sprang up between them. The bond became deeper as they tried to chat a bit. The dying man obviously wanted to talk about his wife and children on whom his last thoughts centered. He pointed to his shirt pocket. Understanding the gesture correctly the German soldier extracted a wallet from it and took out a few family pictures. The gaze of the wounded man wandered over them with sadness and infinite love. The German soldier was deeply touched at that; minutes ago he would have stabbed his enemy with his bayonet; minutes ago all of his battle instincts were unleashed, as was natural in an attack. And now one of the enemy lies before him - and is no longer an enemy; he is simply a man, a father and a husband, one who loves and is loved, one who defended his home, and who must now bid farewell to everything he holds dear. All at once the German soldier is confronted by that other man in a completely different way. It suddenly becomes clear that the friend/foe relationship is by no means the only one, but that behind it, or above it, there is an immediacy to the other person - who lives, as I do, in a house amid loved ones, and who, as I do, has his joys and cares. Instead of having to change his own feelings the other person was changed for the German soldier, and for that reason only he then changed his own way of reacting.

Source: Helmut Thielicke, Being a Christian When the Chips are Down

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