Hacksaw Ridge was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of WWII. It was a sheer 350 foot cliff that the American soldiers had to scale only to be met at the top by an enemy hidden in bunkers, machine gunners in foxholes and booby traps all around. In doing some research, of course movie making involves some embellishment and exaggeration. Surprisingly, most of the facts that were changed were minor. His flashback in the movie about taking a gun away from his father...it was not a fight with his mother, but a fight with his uncle. After taking that gun away, he never wanted to touch another. His date of marriage to his wife, he was actually married before he was deployed. What is amazing to me are the facts that were left out. He was actually not only hit by a grenade; but he was alone for five hours waiting for help to take him off that hill. Then as he was being carried on a stretcher he saw another wounded man, rolled off the stretcher to help care for that man and let them take that injured soldier on the stretcher to safety. During that time of waiting for another stretcher he was hit by a sniper's bullet and his arm was shattered. This man was a true hero, and in reading about him all he wanted to do was to honor God. That picture of the Ten Commandments had an affect on him and he always wondered how a brother could kill another brother.
His one prayer as he was on that hill was Lord, just one more man. We know they say he saved 75 men. Records read that he says modestly it was 50, his commander said according to the men it was closer to 100, so they decided to split the difference. It was a 12 hour period that he was on that hellish hill saving men; that equates to one man approximately every 10 minutes. Can you even imagine? Here was this 145 lb. man saving 75 men by himself. But wait, he wasn't by himself was he? He had a mighty God that he served and a mighty God to help him. The words he spoke as he looked upon that battlefield resonate with me, "God what is it you want from me?" Then after a bit, still torn by all the violence and bloodshed he says, "I can't hear you". And then he hears another soldier crying for help. "Alright". He knew what he had to do. He knew what God had called him for and he goes back in.
We live this Christian life often wondering, God what is it you want from me, and if we are honest we often feel that we don't hear from the Lord. I believe we often overthink this. What is the greatest commandment? Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31, "and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’ 31 This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] [a]love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these" (Amplified). All that we are to do rests on this. Love God first. If we love God we will not only want to do His will, we will be compelled to do it. And if we love God, then with His love dwelling in us, we will love others. Our neighbors...who are they? According to Jesus, they are not just those living in proximity to us, but they are all our fellow man. And we know that Jesus told us to not only love those who love us, but to love our enemies. He spoke of that in telling us the story of the good Samaritan. He also told us in Matthew 5:43-48, "There is a saying, 'Love your friends and hate your enemies.' But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." (TLB)
If we love God, we will not only do His will, but we will desire to do His will. That means that we will love others, all others. In the movie, Desmond is portrayed as helping a Japanese soldier, the enemy. He is in danger of being killed by approaching soldiers and he chooses to give aid to one who is his adversary, a sworn foe. In truth, he tried to give aid to a Japanese soldier but was threatened by American soldiers, that if he gave aid that they would kill him for doing so. He truly lived the words of Jesus. Giving aid to all his 'neighbors'.
We read the Word, love your neighbor. Jesus says our neighbor is every man. Christian and non-Christian alike. But so often we bunker down behind our church walls, our denominational walls and kill not only the enemy but our own. What the world calls 'friendly fire'. We say we love our fellow Christians, but that gets to be a sticky situation when their beliefs and their theologies don't line up with ours. I watched that movie, cringing at the horrendous wartime violence and gore represented. I wanted so badly to shut my eyes. To not see what was happening. But then I thought, those men lived through that. They saw that long after they left Okinawa and probably until their dying day. And more than that, I thought, that is the violence we do to each other. In the name of Christ. We brutalize each other. They speak in tongues, or they don't. They believe in prophecy, or that is not a dispensation for today. They believe in baptism at birth, they believe in full immersion, or they only 'sprinkle'. From the safety of our pews we take sniper shots at those who also profess Christ, but not quite like we do. We lob grenades at those who look different from us. When I became saved, it was in a Charismatic church. I hate to say it, but we are often the most judgemental of all. You had better speak in tongues and prophecy and make a lot of noise during praise and worship. Let me tell you something. My beautiful mother came to the Lord late in life. She attended Lutheran church. She came to church with us often when she visited. She was this quiet woman, she would barely sing out loud. And clap her hands?? No way. But this woman loved the Lord with her whole heart. Hers was a quiet deep faith. She read the word more faithfully than I have ever done. She never spoke in tongues, she probably never heard a prophetic word, but she loved the Lord. And at this moment, she is in heaven still loving the Lord in her own beautiful way.
If we profess Christ, if we truly follow after Him then we have to see each other the way that He does. He says we are all one body. One body, with Him being the head. "The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 1 Corinthians 12:21 NIV). We cannot pick and choose the body parts that we want to keep, or want to be associated with just because we don't think we need them or because we don't like them. There are plenty of parts on my body that I don't like all that well, but I do like living, so I think I will keep them, thank you very much. I don't necessarily like my armpits, but we all know that sweating regulates body temperature, so yeah I'll hang onto those. I do think I have nice toes; my daughter disagrees, but that's another story! In essence it comes down to this; we need each other. Just as we need the different parts of our body to do different things so that we can function to the best of our ability, we need every part of Christ's body. We need those quiet believers. We need those that like to swing from the chandeliers. We need those who sprinkle and those who immerse. We need those who want just the piano playing and those who want a full band. We need them, because Jesus says we are all part of Him. And together we can get the work done that He has called us to do. Preach the gospel to everyone. We all play a different role. I am not the missionary type, to go into foreign lands and minister. I am not the bold evangelist who stands on the street corner sharing with all who come by. I am not the praise and worship leader who ushers us into the presence of God with music. I am someone who sits in my living room typing on my computer; hopefully doing the will of God and reaching others where I can. Doing my part, all while loving the rest of the body.
And not just loving the body, but loving my neighbor. Often we are taught as Christians that we are not to associate with unbelievers. Don't get too close, you don't want the stench of the world on you. You can preach at them and thump them over the head with your big bible, but don't get too near to them. I am sorry. Jesus did not live that way. He said he was hated because He associated with the harlots, and the publicans and the tax collectors. He said the doctor does not go to those who are healthy. He not only went to them, He loved them. That does not mean that He ignored their sins. The words He spoke often seemed harsh and confrontational, but all of what He did was motivated by love for them and the desire to have fellowship with them. He formed relationships with people. He chose those that the religious of the day scorned. I think most of us remember the story of Zacchaeus from Sunday school. Here was this little man, a tax collector, hated because although he was a Jew, he was in collaboration with the despised Romans and even stole from his own people. This man, small of stature wanted to see Jesus. We could ask why, but how often have we been compelled by something we later recognize as the Spirit of God? So he knows he has no way to see over the heads of all those in the crowd, so he runs ahead and climbs a tree so that he can get a glimpse of Jesus. The story does not tell of his even believing that Jesus will see him or even deign to acknowledge him if he does, but he knows he must see Jesus. So he climbs that sycamore tree. And beyond all reason, he not only sees Jesus, but Jesus sees him. And we know that Jesus truly saw him. Saw all that he was, all that he had done, but still chose to say to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Not I'd like to drop by for a minute, or I'll walk with you there, but I must stay there. Jesus by His own love was compelled to stay at his home, even though He knew who he was and how he was hated. And we know as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. Zacchaeus so overwhelmed by the love of God repented, gave half of his wealth to the poor and re-payed those he stole from four times over. And not only that, but we hear Jesus tell all those that would hear, “Today salvation has come to this house." Salvation came because someone reached out. Salvation came because love was shown. Salvation came because compassion always wins. All of that still holds true today. We are to reach out the hand of Jesus to those who are lost, we are to live the command of our Lord to preach the gospel to every creature, we are to form relationships with those who don't know Jesus and not just speak of who He is, but live who He is. We may not see the end result, just as Desmond in the movie did not see if that Japanese soldier lived because of his ministrations. But we are to do it anyway. We don't know if we are to just plant the seed, and another will water. But we do know that if we do nothing, this world stays lost and broken and we have failed to do the will of our Father.
Desmond Doss was the first 'conscientious objector' to win the Medal of Honor. But he chose to say he was a conscientious cooperator. He believed the war was justified, but that killing was still wrong. He wanted to serve God and his country and he believed he could do that by being a medic but refusing to carry a weapon. He was mocked and ridiculed but held true to his beliefs. He admitted that the greatest temptation of his life was when he was in a foxhole with a buddy and they heard the Japanese approaching. He thought I could pick up a grenade and take care of all of them. Then he remembered that 'God said "Thou shalt not kill", God gave life and I didn't want to take it'. He held true to his convictions, even in the midst of gunfire, explosions, killing and death. In the heat of the battle he stayed firm. It is sad to say but we often waver, and not even just when times are tough. In the midst of life's troubles we often doubt. We often compromise. We often seek the easy way out. I want to be like Desmond. I want to trust in the Lord so much that no matter what comes my way I will stand. If I have to I will crawl. I want to put the needs of others before mine and the will of God before all. In the face of all hardship I want to say what Desmond said, "I had these men up there and I shouldn't leave 'em. They were my buddies, some of the men had families, and they trust me. I didn't feel like I should value my life above my buddy's, so I decided to stay with them and take care of as many of them as I could. I didn't know how I was gonna do it." But God knew, and made a way for him.
I want to be that conscientious cooperator...cooperating with God and fulfilling His will for my life. I want do as we have talked about in our bible study, walk that ridge. That ridge that is our Christian faith, narrow and often dangerous, but oh the stories we can tell. Of God's goodness and His grace. Of His provision and His strength. Of His faithfulness and of His glory. And to not only hear the words from our heavenly Father, "Well done, good and faithful servant"; but to also hear from those who have scorned us, mocked us and doubted us, the same words said to Desmond, "I didn't know who you were". More truthfully, I didn't know Whose you were.
Information on Desmond Doss from these websites:
oneplace.com, The courage of conviction in Hacksaw Ridge
bibleinfo.com, who was Desmond Doss of Hacksaw Ridge