To be a soldier,
to fight for peace till war shall end
Source: Singing the Faith: 133
Words: John L. Bell, Graham Maule
Music: “Miles Christi” by John L. Bell
John Bell and Graham Maule’s hymn was written in memory of George MacLeod, the pacifist founder of the Iona Community, whose “Rule of the Iona Community” was nevertheless entitled “Miles Christi” (Latin for “Soldiers of Christ”) – “because we are engaged in a battle”. This was the name John and Graham took for their hymn tune. It was first sung at the memorial service for MacLeod, held at his old church of Govan Old, to the south west of Glasgow.
That paradoxical image of a fighter for peace runs through the hymn: “To be a soldier, / to fight for peace till war shall end: / this is the conflict / Christ calls you to attend.” Verse 3 describes what such a soldier’s commission looks like, echoing, in one line, the prophet Isaiah, quote by Jesus in Luke 4:18
It calls for courage
to bring the poor release,
to enter politics praying
and break rank obeying
the power and Prince of Peace
These sentiments (and the Luke passage in particular) are picked up in StF 404, God’s spirit is in my heart.