At 3 a.m. on the morning of October 28th, 1940, the Italian ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, delivered an ultimatum from his Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini, to the Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas. Grazzi demanded that Metaxas allow the Italian army free passage to enter and occupy strategic sites in Greece unopposed.
Faced with this demand, Metaxas delivered an unequivocal response in French, the diplomatic language of the day, “Alors, c’est la guerre.” This brief phrase, “Then, it is war,” was quickly transmuted into the laconic “Oxi,” the Greek for NO, by the citizens of Athens.
At 5:30 a.m., before the ultimatum had even expired, the Italian army poured over the Greek-Albanian border into the mountainous Pindos region of Northern Greece. There they met fierce and unexpected resistance.
Within six months, Ioannis Metaxas would be dead; his successor, Alexandros Koryzis would commit suicide; Mussolini would be humiliated; and the Germans would raise the swastika over the Acropolis.
Several historians assert that the emphatic NO from the Greeks, as well as strong resistance, delayed the advance of the Italian and German forces to the extent that it altered the outcome of World War II. Churchill paid homage to the Greek resistance by claiming, “…until now we would say that the Greeks fight like heroes. From now on we will say that heroes fight like Greeks.” Every October 28th, Greeks at home and abroad honor the past by celebrating Oxi Day.
This is a very valuable lesson for Christians. Paul in his letter to Titus says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “NO” (oxi) to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”. (Titus 2:11-12).
Grace without saying NO is cheap grace. We make the mistake of thinking that we can say yes to everything and rely on Gods grace alone to save us. Yet Paul reminds us that true grace is understood when we say NO to sin, over and above God’s extended hand of grace. His gift of grace + our action. We cannot continue to live lives that submit to worldly passions and desires and expect to hold onto Gods grace every time. God expects us to say NO. When Jesus confronted the women caught in adultery (I wonder where the man was that she was involved with?) he told her to go and ‘sin no more’. His grace was the gift of salvation and equally an implicit instruction to stop her sinful acts. In other words, when she was confronted with the same situation, she had to act purposefully and say NO.
Paul emphasised this when he wrote to the church in Rome. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By NO means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 61-2.
“It has never been about having the right words
or being the right person.
It’s always and only
about His Grace”
Sometimes all our sin needs is a NO.