The Stand in Hacksaw Ridge
In the United States today we turn the focus to the veterans who have selflessly given of their lives to the service of this country. Whatever country you are in we are sure you can be thankful for the service of those who have fought to protect your country as well. Serving in the military is considered by many to be an honor for those who enlist. Despite the risk of seeing unforgettable things, doing uncomfortable things, even risking post traumatic stress (PTS) once being discharged, these individuals were willing to give their all for their country.
Today we want to briefly focus in on one particular veteran. He is typified in the movie that just came out last weekend: Hacksaw Ridge. Considered to be Mel Gibson’s directorial return, the movie follows the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector (aka refused to engage in combat and kill people) and how he stood for his beliefs despite facing persecution from his superiors. He is best known for saving approximately 75 lives in the battle of Okinawa in WWII without carrying a gun, and became the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Awards aside, what is truly inspiring about his story are the choices he made before adversity slapped him in the face. Refusing to carry a weapon in the military back then (even as a medic) opened the doors to ridicule from superiors and peers. Standing up for these particular beliefs at this time was no easy feat. But his love and value for life ran deep within his character and standards that he could not just throw them away because circumstances had changed.
If you have not seen it, we will not give away everything about the movie. But here is the key takeaway. Doss’ story is not so much inspiring that he received a congressional medal of honor. Nor is it so much inspiring that he saved ## of lives (yes this is inspiring but not the key takeaway). The real gem in this story is how his convictions were cemented long before the challenges came, and that his value for life pushed him into putting his own life in danger so he could save the lives of his fellow men without risking the lives of those waging war with him. Sounds like a win win for both sides right? In retrospect yes, but the journey was difficult.
This story is reminiscent of Daniel, when in chapter one he decides in his heart that he will not break God’s law and eat unclean foods put out by the king, even before the threats arrive. Or of Daniel’s friends in chapter three, who refuse to bow to an idol (in direct violation of God’s law) and will not change their minds even if God does not save them from the consequences. See, it is always easy to take a stand when momentum is on your side. We see no better example of this than in the political arena. Polished politicians will usually come out and provide support for a cause when it is politically expedient to do so. They come out with support/opposition to many causes when the momentum is already out there and they can just jump on board. While those in the cause may welcome the growing support, it can never replace the fact that when times were tough, these people (if they really felt a certain way) were not there through the difficulties of building the movement.
In retrospect it is easy to think taking a stand for ones’ beliefs like in Hacksaw Ridge is a popular and cool thing to do. But hindsight is always 20/20. For those of us inspired by Doss’ story and wish to become anchors for our beliefs while still showing compassion and love for others like Jesus did, the decision must happen today. Today, when there is no imminent threat of danger. Today, when it may not be expedient to do so. Today, before the difficulties arrive, stand.
As Christians we desire a better life with our best friend. We also are aware that the road between now and that place is going to be anything but easy. Despite these oncoming challenges, we push forward because we desire the crown. We want to see an end to the pain and suffering in this world. We refuse to be cornered into making a decision that may violate our belief in God and His values. If you get a chance read Hebrews 3. The running point in that chapter is
Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts
Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to be our guide and comforter when He left (see John 14). Let us not ignore our convictions, for by doing so we will be unable to stand when the time comes. Choosing to stand will not come easy when we are threatened to kneel. That choice must be made today, because it is the conviction that will carry you through. Thank you Jesus for setting an example for us to follow. May we follow your lead, and the leads of those who have walked before us so that we too can be home sooner.