You know when you hear the same message three times in three different places, and you finally realize on the third time that God may be trying to say something?
That happened to me last weekend. I love how God pursues us and uses things in our life to communicate His heart. For me, that happened through two movies and a sermon.
Friday night, I walked into the movie theater with the Patton family and searched around for some seats together as the lights dimmed. The theater was packed. A World War Two veteran sat in the back row, identified by his black and red hat proclaiming his service. His wife sat beside him.
We settled into the reclining seats (yay!!) and waited out the commercials. Finally, the real show of the evening began. Hacksaw Ridge.
Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Desmond Doss, a rough and tumble country boy from the mountains of Virginia who won’t touch a gun. Men from his town are being drafted and enlisting in the War, and he wants to join as a medic and a Conscientious Objector. This story caught my attention from the beginning - how in the world could a Conscientious Objector without a weapon make it out of the war alive?
“While everybody is taking life I’m going to be saving it, and that’s going to be my way to serve.” - Desmond Doss
Desmond’s way of living out what he believed to be his calling was by becoming a medic and saving as many lives as he could during one of the most intense battles of World War II. It wasn’t easy, though. Desmond’s beliefs were set in stone, but they were very different from the men of his unit. Those beliefs were challenged from the moment he enlisted. He was even beat up by his unit before even getting to battle.
His story was an amazing testament to how God can use all of us - no matter the circumstances - for good. I won’t give away the entire plot, but I will say this: this story impacted me profoundly. The battle at Hacksaw Ridge was one of the most difficult of the war. Six times, men tried to take Hacksaw Ridge. Six times, they failed. And that was before Desmond’s unit arrived.
Yet through it all, Desmond remained committed to his beliefs in the face of persecution by fellow soldiers, incredibly harrowing battles, and immense physical suffering.
I came away from the movie somber and thoughtful. In the face of war and killing, Desmond decided to go a different path. Every single person he met with, he showed mercy to them. Whether that meant choosing kindness and compassion for his fellow soldiers - even after they beat him up - or giving it his all to save both Japanese and American lives during a battle.
The movie ended with real film clips of Desmond Doss after the war with his wife, family, and an interview years later. As the credits rolled, stoic clapping rung through the theater. The veteran in the back was on his feet. This man, who had likely experienced the same things that Desmond had, clapping for a story laced with mercy, compassion, and kindness in a time when soldiers were being killed by the minute and evil was doing it’s best to come out on top.
Desmond, at least, had been determined to make sure evil didn’t win out -- mercy did.If you haven’t already seen the movie, please, take this weekend and go. You will come away moved.
Saturday night, I spent the evening cooking Korean BBQ with Michael and goofing around. Where both Asian food and Michael is involved, it's going to be a fun night. After dinner, we sat down to watch a documentary we had just heard about: White Helmets.
All we knew going into the documentary was that it was about Syria. After researching for an entire debate season and reading countless articles on Syria, we were intrigued to hear what it was about.
The documentary was short - only about forty minutes - and followed a group of Syrian men (dubbed the White Helmets) who have made it their mission to save anyone trapped under buildings after a bombing occurs. Many of these men were former Syrian rebels; all of them were tired of the oppressive regime in Syria. But instead of taking lives and fighting as rebels, they had decided to come back and rescue those that would otherwise have no help. (sound familiar?)
These men gave up security, precious time with their family, even well-paying jobs to save perfect strangers from the aftermath of bombings and drone strikes in towns. Members of the White Helmets have a target on their back, and are in the thick of the action - which means their lives are at greater risk than even the average civilian in a warzone.
The men even left Syria for a month to train for search and rescue in Turkey. After a long day training to put out fires, they received a phone call. The brother of their fellow White Helmet member back in Syria had been killed during a recent bombing. The men gathered around him and comforted him as he sank down onto a bench in tears.
A month later, they were all back in Syria.
A White Helmet stands at the top of a building, watching a plane fly over and drop twenty bombs onto the nearby village. He radios in to another member on the ground, telling them the location of the destruction.
Twenty White Helmets stand around a collapsed building, shouting orders to one another and working steadily to save the people trapped. One body comes out, lifeless. Another person is lifted out, alive.
“And I thought, “It is better to do humanitarian work than to be armed. Better to rescue a soul than to take one.”
I try as hard as possible to save every person under the rubble whether they are young or old, I consider them all to be my family.
Sunday morning. Sitting in church service, quietly listening to the worship music, starting to think about what’s for lunch. Listening to the announcements. Then, the pastor gets up and reads the first sentence of his sermon; it’s a Bible verse.
“Judgement is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.” James 2:13
The pastor spoke about mercy in how we respond to others. Instead of gossiping, or whispering behind someone’s back, we should give them the benefit of the doubt and extend mercy instead of judgement. Mercy isn’t just a big concept that’s out in the void. It’s in everyday interactions -- it’s in how we respond. I don’t think that this message could come to any of us at a better time.
“But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Matthew 9:13
It’s so much easier to sacrifice, isn’t it? To “offer up” prayers, intentions, thoughts, or even actions to God, then turn around and snap at our younger sibling or family member. But God desires mercy, not our sacrifices.
Whether we are talking with our family, friends, strangers, that lady who cut us off in traffic, the painfully slow Starbucks barista, the annoying coworker, the screaming child -- everyone around us deserves mercy and we can show it to them in how we respond.
I like to think that God has a sense of humor, and you can bet that I was getting that sense of humor at the moment I heard the first verse of the sermon that day. Three times, He told me a message that apparently I really needed (and still need) to hear.
Mercy, not something I have spent a lot of time thinking about. However, after receiving that message three times in three days, I got it loud and clear. Mercy is something God wants me to be thinking about, and acting on.
What are your thoughts on mercy? Are any of you going to see Hacksaw Ridge or White Helmets?