Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lone Survivor - The Power and Beauty of a Band of Brothers

Not since the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan has the silver screen given us such intensive, graphic combat carnage as Lone Survivor, which opened in theaters this weekend. Nevertheless, it is worth seeing for its ennobling message about courageous manhood and the amazing power and beauty of a band of brothers on mission.  

The movie is based on Marcus Luttrell's blockbuster bestseller Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. It tells the incredible story of the June 2005 Operation Red Wings, in which four U.S. Navy SEALs were helicoptered into the steep, rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan on a covert mission to collect intelligence and locate or kill a militia leader aligned with al Qaeda.

The SEAL mission takes a bad turn when Luttrell and his three SEAL teammates - Danny Dietz, Matt Axelson, and Mike Murphy - find themselves in a relentless, brutal firefight with over one hundred heavily armed Taliban fighters.

This remarkable story includes an Afghani village leader named Mohammed Gulab and something called Pashtunwali. Pashtunwali is the ancient ethical code of the Pashtun tribe that offers asylum to strangers from their enemies. It reminded me of Genesis 19. There Lot gave hospitality and shelter to two men (actually angels) and then protected them from the wicked men of Sodom who wanted to rape them. Lot held fast to his commitment to honor and protect the two strangers in his home. Christians are commanded to do likewise in Romans 12:13: "Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality". As believers, we have everything we need to offer gospel hospitality to strangers, friends, and even enemies whom God brings into our lives, no matter what the cost.

The heart of the Marcus Luttrell's book and the movie was the very special relationships among this band of brothers. Peter Berg, the movie's director, put it this way:

"This story is about working together for something bigger than our ego, bigger than our individuality. It's about coming together as a group-protecting each other, loving each other, looking out for each other-and finding a greater strength as a team than you could ever find as an individual. Marcus [Luttrell] wrote a book... about brotherhood, sacrifice and team commitment."

Let us be thankful for our uniformed warriors who fight for our freedom in the most dire circumstances and conditions. They believe in honor, duty, sacrifice and courage to stay in the fight to the finish...and so should we!   

We followers of Jesus Christ are born on a spiritual battlefield in enemy occupied territory. We are called to "fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Tim 6:12); "Be strong and courageous" (Josh 1:7); "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet 5:8); And then in Ephesians 6, God lays out our battle mission:

"Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and shaving put on the breastplate of righteousness,and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak."
Be Warned: This movie has extreme, graphic violence; Strong language is constant, with a full range of profanities, including crude sexual slang.

Marcus Luttrell in His Own Words (from his book):

"Service is selflessness--the opposite of the lifestyle that we see so much of in America today. The things that entertain us don't often lift us up, or show us as the people we can rise up to become. The people who appear in this book--and others who did things I can't talk about--are my role models. They quietly live out the idea expressed in the Bible (John 15:13): "Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends."  

"I will never quit. My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down i will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my enemies and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight."  

"These men of the special forces have had other options in their lives, other paths, easier paths they could have taken. But they took the hardest path, that narrow causeway that is not for the sunshine patriot. They took the one for the supreme patriot, the one that may require them to lay down their lives for the United States of America. The one that is suitable only for those who want to serve their country so bad, nothing else matters. That's probably not fashionable in our celebrity-obsessed modern world. But Special Forces guys don't give a damn about that either.....They are of course aware of a higher calling, because they are sworn to defend this country and to fight its battles."  

"Eternal Father, faithful friend, Be quick to answer those we send in brotherhood and urgent trust, On hidden missions dangerous, O hear us when we cry to Thee, For SEALs in air, on land, and sea."  

"My God had not spoken again. But neither had He forsaken me. I knew that. For damned sure, I knew that"  

"The idea...that our professional military men and women train for years without knowing whether they will ever have to actually carry out their missions to the fullest extent of their abilities is the very heart of what service is all about. Heroes aren't designated in advance. Everyone must always be ready to execute.  

"In my experience, it's always the greatest heroes who claim they never did anything beyond what any of their buddies would have done in the same situation. Our training and our culture breed that response into us all, no matter what war we were part of. You train yourself to a standard and thereby make yourself interchangeable with others who share the same standard. And that gives everyone an equal claim to the pride that goes with having served your country." 

By Dave Brown, Director and Pastor, Washington Area Coalition of Men's Ministries (WACMM)

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