The movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ is a non WWII war film that is riveting in its realism of depicting the workings of a modern war fought in the urban cities. In spite of the incessant violence in the role of ‘Hoot’ played by Eric Bana I found a poignant lesson of love.
Hoot rugged looking handsome and brave insurgent that works behind enemy lines. While every soldier is supportive, helpful and anxious, Hoot appears standoffish, unloving and almost incapable of compassion. In the battlefield he is decisive, brave and appears to love war that you might want to label him a jingoist. One might want to say that Hoot is either a sadist who loves violence or he is a man who has been hardened by years of living life the hard way at the edge of mortal danger.
The Delta force that Hoot is a part of raids a rebel stronghold. They massively underestimate the enemy firepower and get badly beaten. Not knowing what hit them, large numbers of troops are trapped behind enemy lines. As the trapped soldiers make their way out into the safe zone they get butchered as they fight their way through. After hours of battle, being chased and shot down as though they were dogs, a group of soldiers make it through and Hoot is among them.
While the soldiers that made it through rest feeling safe and blessed to have made it to the safe zone, Hoot retools to go back behind the enemy lines. Sgt. Eversmann is flabbergasted that Hoot wants to go back behind the Enemy lines after having been through hell and back. He asks…
Hoot: There’s still men out there. Goddam. When I go home people ask me, they say “Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? Why??? You some kind of war junkie? I won’t say a goddam word… Why??? They won’t understand… They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand, it’s about the men next to you. And that’s it. That’s all it is.
There is a deep Christian principle in what Hoot is saying here. If you truly loved your Neighbor as you should, you will do what needs be done. If need be, you will go behind Enemy lines to save souls. When I think of this tall, sharp nosed, handsome Hoot, I am reminded of an ugly, short, (supposedly) large nosed man who lived a couple of millenia ago and loved going behind Enemy lines to save souls, St. Paul.
To Paul, going to Rome was to go behind the Enemy lines. To be right under the nose of the Great Caesar and preach that Caesar isn’t God but Christ is, is asking to get killed. But Paul is eager to do it, Why? Because he feels an ‘obligation’ to the ‘neighbor’ both Jew and Gentile.
13. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul is no crazy adventure junkie. He has a reason why He eagerly risks going behind enemy lines. He explains… that it is because the Gospel he preaches is ‘powerful’ enough to change ‘people groups’.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
If you know anything about History, you’ll know that the Gospel is the Power of God that transforms people groups. It may not happen overnight. It usually takes centuries. Since Paul got behind enemy lines it took about three centuries before Rome turned from being the seat of a Pagan power to a well spring of Christianity.
The famed Historian Will Durant when describing this age of Early Christianity succinctly says, “Christ and Caesar met in the arena and Christ won” (BTW, Will Durant was no Christian. He was just a good historian.)
That there were men out there that needed to be saved was preeminent on Hoot’s mind. It defined who Hoot was. That men needed to hear the Gospel, that it was his ‘obligation’ was preeminent on Paul’s mind. It defined who St. Paul was. The question that 21st Century Christians might want to ask ourselves is what thought take such preeminence in our minds that it defines us.
Not every Christian has to have a St. Paul like ministry, but all of us have preeminent thoughts in our minds that define us to such an extent that we appear crazy to other people. Crazy people are attractive. It is the normal run of the mill folks that are vapid. As Christians aren’t called to be run off the mill people. We are called to be crazily in love with our neighbor that others will see that and be attracted to Christ.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Going behind enemy lines looks different for different people. To Paul it was going to Rome to fulfill his obligation to love his neighbor. To us it might be spending time with a friend to make him/her feel valued or may be lending money to people who need help or just being with people listening to their suffering without venturing to give half-baked prognosis as Job’s friends did or just doing whatever it take to make one realize one is loved.
To love is to risk. To love much is to risk much. If the ‘new commandment’ to crazily love is something that would truly be preeminent in our minds, if this would truly define us as Christians, that would be a place where the Power of God transforming people groups through the Gospel would be easily apparent and would attract people to Christ. Unless Christians understand this transformational lesson on love, we will miss an opportunity to help the pagans understand the language of love that Christ speaks in.