A single pine tree oversaw a battlefield on which almost 2300 Australians (and more than double the number of Turks) were killed during an August 1915 offensive in the First World War’s Gallipoli campaign. The ferocity of the fighting was symbolised by the seven Victoria Crosses awarded for acts of bravery amidst four days of hand-to-hand combat in narrow confines and near-dark trenches. The victorious Battle of Lone Pine has continued in Aussie folklore as an enduring marker of our identity as a fledgling nation, with parallels to the significance of another tree that symbolises a different kind of freedom won for us.
The tree of Calvary marked the place of Jesus’ sacrifice. His death on a Roman cross granted redemption to all who would accept Him as Lord. The new identity that it forged offers us an enduring legacy which is easy to overlook.
1. Freedom is won. Former soldiers may reminisce, but they don’t continue winning finished battles. They do, however, need to honour social norms when back home since their freedom is not licence to live as they please. For Christians living under grace, there are still biblical principles that govern our freedom, but its original price was paid for by Christ’s sacrifice on a battlefield which we are already liberated from and no longer need to return to. Though we live today in a less than perfect world, our continued faith in God is grounded in a victory He has already won for us. Trusting in His promises is a key to answered prayer which attests to the freedom we can enjoy in Christ.
2. Growth is assured. Branches of the lone pine tree which covered the captured Turkish trenches produced a cone retrieved by a soldier who sent two of its seeds home. One was planted at the Australian War Memorial and still stands, having also propagated pine seedlings all over the country. Similarly, Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection provides a seed of faith that gives enduring fruit when planted in the hearts of those who receive Him as Lord and Saviour. Once the seed is sown, God brings the growth and He propagates faith to then touch the lives of others. Our work is to make sure that our soil stays healthy for best results.
3. Darkness is defeated. The end of the Battle of Lone Pine allowed the light to expose the conquered enemy who had seemed oppressive and powerful in the dark trenches. When we live in the light of Christ who is light, the darkness is simply not allowed to exist. The antidote to the darkness of sin, addiction, shame, guilt, oppression, defeat is to turn the light on. When Jesus shines in us, we can actually see that our enemy is already defeated, so we can stop striving for breakthrough and simply receive it, albeit in the knowledge that it comes in its final perfection in Heaven.
We live in freedom within our nation because of the sacrifice of others we have never met. Greater love has no one than He who laid his life down for us on a ‘lone pine’ Cross and now calls us friends if we serve Him (John 15:13-15). The price for our spiritual freedom was paid by Christ who now grants abundant life on this side of eternity. We can simply embrace the inheritance won for us so as to live as God’s much-loved and richly blessed children, a new creation for whom the old identity has gone (2 Corinthians 5:17).