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To End All Wars

Life was brutal in the prisoner of war camps carved out of the jungles of south-east Asia. The Japanese treated their captives as expendable, forcing them into harsh and dangerous labour fueled by scant rations of rice and little else. More than a quarter of all prisoners of war held captive by the Japanese died while interned.

The morale of the living was non-existent as "death called to [them] from every direction." Starvation, exhaustion and disease degraded the men to selfishness, hate, fear and despair.

The prisoners were stripped of their humanity and reduced "to levels lower than the beasts," until one man set an example for them all. His friend was sick and dying so he starved himself to give his own food to the friend. The friend became well but the man died, having given his very life for his friend. From his example, the officers began to use what resources they had to help the sick, at a loss to themselves.

The climate of the camp shifted.
Selfishness, hatred, envy, jealously, greed, self-indulgence, laziness and pride were all anti-life. Love, heroism, self-sacrifice, sympathy, mercy, integrity and creative faith, on the other hand, were the essence of life...."
Generosity bred generosity until the camp was humming with life and the creativity of an orchestra, theatre, university and well-attended church services, each man using his gifts to serve others. They "regained respect for [themselves] because human life had value once more." Attitudes were changing as men were saying, "You first," instead of "Me first."

Men were thinking some of the deep questions of life, such as "What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?" "What does forgiveness look like when one's captors treat life with disrespect?"

Forgiveness is seeing a trainful of your enemy wounded and uncared for, "more cowed and defeated than we had ever been," and choosing to share meager rations and water, cleaning their wounds and speaking kindly to them.
Our experience of life in death had taught us that the way to life leads through death. To see Jesus was to see in Him that love which is the very highest form of life, that love which has sacrifice as the logical end of its action. To hang on to life, to guard it jealously, to preserve it, is to end up by burying it. Each of us must die to the physical life of selfishness, the life controlled by our hates, fears, lusts and prejudices in order to live in the flesh the life that is of the spirit. This is a basic law that cannot be broken except at great cost.
I find myself convicted. How much do I pursue my comforts and needs at the expense of not meeting that of others? How much of myself am I willing to give away? How much am I controlled by my hates, fears, lusts and prejudices? I think of an elderly widow I know who seems to suck the life out of anyone who tries to help her. I think of the street people who come to my church during the week for warmth, food and friendship. I think of the barriers I've built for self-protection. Am I willing "to live in the flesh the life that is of the spirit"? It seems I must.

All quotes from To End All Wars by Ernest Gordon, published by Zondervan (Grand Rapids, Michigan) 2002. (Previously published as Through the Valley of the Kwai in 1963and Miracle on the River Kwai in 1965.)

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About the Author


I'm married (35 years in December 2008) with four grown sons. I love my city (Winnipeg) and my country (Canada) and promote them both to whoever will listen. God (through Jesus Christ) is the biggest part of my life. I am learning to let him take control of all areas--though I do better at this some times more than others.

I have written a book that's recently been published about part of my journey with God. In it I tell how God confronted me with the same-sex attraction issues I've struggled with all my adult life and how he led me through them to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with him. God is amazing—his forgiveness, his love, his movement in our lives when we allow him and so much more. I suspect God will never run out of things to teach me or ways to make me grow and that’s a good thing (though often very painful).

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Reviews of Searching for Love

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. You may e-mail me at or post them in the comments section below.

A Real Testimony
I finished your book. A real testimony to what God does for us.
Leona March 3, 2009
I Had Tears Coming

I sat down to read it about a week later and ended up finishing it the same night. At first I admit I was a little bored and thought that the whole book was about a battle all in your mind, but as I continued reading this creeping thought came over me of a different...struggle in my own life, that I would never in my right mind have shared with anyone accept maybe God. I've mentioned your book to a few people because it stirs up age-old controversies that I have myself argued and wondered about, namely about whether or not homosexuality can be cured or just managed like alcoholism--you just have to stay away from temptation. I noticed at the end of your book that your struggle story …