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“Standing as I do in view of God and eternity,
I realise that patriotism is not enough.

I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”
~ Edith Cavell

Recently I was watching a BBC series set in a WWI French army hospital, in which the name of Edith Cavell and the above quote was mentioned (although I have to point out that, not too surprisingly, the BBC left out the first part of the quote mentioning God and eternity). It compelled me to do more research on this brave woman.

Edith Cavell was a British nurse who served in German-occupied Belgium during World War I. She was known and celebrated for aiding soldiers from both sides without discrimination and was arrested in August 1915 for helping 200 Allied prisoners of war escape to safety. Despite international outcries for mercy, she was found guilty of treason and shot by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915.

Edith was a devoted Christian with a very real personal faith in Jesus Christ, and she willingly forgave her captors and executioners. On the day before her execution, she met with a British chaplain and during her visit she is recorded as stating the above quote.

Her words of how “patriotism is not enough” in light of God and eternity are just as powerful and true in a contemporary context. Having a strong belief in something as good as patriotism for your country or any other cause like standing up for your rights as a woman or an American citizen or fighting for racial equality–these numerous hot issues that people are protesting over in these current times may be good and right to stand up for, but if in doing so we are ignoring basic humanitarian issues–love, generosity, and compassion toward all people, regardless of gender, race, religion, or any other factor–then in the long run all our efforts are futile and wasted.

What is the point of fighting for freedom, personal rights, and equality, unless we are fighting for them for all people? We can’t call ourselves real patriots or humanitarians or civil rights activists and then limit the focus of our activity to just a few choice sectors of the population while ignoring the rest.

In his earthly life, Jesus was a minister to all people. He called for love and forgiveness and compassion on a global scale, every individual equally important.

I’m not saying that we should just drop our efforts and causes and disregard the many special interest groups and activities out there. Go out and do those things with enthusiasm and compassion, but while you are working for your special cause, remember, like Edith Cavell, to treat every single person out there with equally strong and enthusiastic love and compassion because that’s what they deserve as a human being for whom Christ died and rose again.




Edith Cavell’s Life & Legacy