Thursday, January 29, 2015

American Sniper: What would Jesus do?

If a man burst into our home or approached me on the street with a loaded weapon intent on killing me, I would be ok with Jimmy shooting him. In fact, I would expect him to do everything within his power to protect me. It’s his job.

It was Chris Kyle’s job to do so as well.

Chris is the hero of the blockbuster movie “American Sniper,” a true story based on his military career as a Navy SEAL. Chris’s accuracy with a sniper rifle saved the lives of countless Americans throughout four tours of duty in Iraq. His accomplishments earned him the nickname “Legend” among his military brothers. The movie isn’t only Chris’s struggle on the battlefield, however, just as Chris Kyle’s life wasn’t only as a military hero. Chris was also a husband and dad; balancing the aggression of the battlefield with the compassion of the home may have been his greatest battle just as it is for many who return home from war.

Despite his heroic actions, the movie has met with strong criticism in social media. One tweet has caught my attention more than others. I saw the movie Saturday night; the movie was still fresh in my pondering mind when I read this tweet,

I admit it – the expression “What would Jesus do?” is kind of worn out. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone wearing a WWJD bracelet. Besides, the question of what Jesus would do is pointless as He doesn’t need a sniper’s rifle to strike down his enemy. The power of His spoken word will be adequate when the time comes. Don’t believe me? Read Revelation 19:11-21. But that’s another battle for another day and time.

All joking aside, I think we understand the point of the tweeter’s question, “What would Jesus do?” The question really asks “How should I – as a follower of Jesus – respond to this situation?” Or, sometimes people use the question to indicate, “What is Jesus’ teaching on this issue?” To that end, I’ve come up with six areas where Chris Kyle is a good example for us as followers of Christ as we engage in the battle.

He enlisted.

It seems basic but we all have to start somewhere, don’t we? Yet, some of us never enlist in the battle. We assume life can be all happy thoughts, peaceful moments, and kumbaya campfires. That’s not reality, though. We may find personal peace in Christ but neither the spiritual nor physical worlds will experience complete peace until eternity begins. Only then will God “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Until then, we better come to grips with reality; wars and rumors of wars will continue until the end (Matthew 24:6) and “we will have suffering in this world” (John 16:33).

He developed his skill.

Chris Kyle appears to have had some natural talent with a rifle. Natural talent doesn’t make you the most successful sniper in American history, however. The movie doesn’t go in to much detail in this area but common sense tells me that Chris spent hours practicing and developing his skill so he would be ready when deployment came.

As followers of Christ, we have a gift as well – a special area where God has given us the capacity to serve Him. The capacity to serve is only as effective as natural talent, however. It will get some work done but serving at a higher level requires the development of that capacity. Then we can step into the battle ready to do some damage against the enemy.

He knew his purpose.

Chris Kyle’s job was to protect his fellow soldiers. Period. He didn’t spend time cooking in the mess hall or analyzing intelligence in the offices. His duty – his purpose – was to spend hours staring down the scope of a rifle watching for those who might harm his brothers. That’s what he did and it made him a legend.

We have a purpose as well; we have to know what it is. We can waste a lot of hours doing good things that keep us from the best thing, however. In fact, I believe this is one of Satan’s primary methods of attack for those who follow Christ. He can keep us so busy doing good things that we aren’t effective in our true area of purpose, whatever that might be. The more our relationship with Jesus grows, the more we will know our true purpose. Then, we will be the one striking down the enemy on the battlefield.

He did his job.

He developed his skill. He knew his purpose. All of that is worthless if we don’t step up and do the job. Hours of practice and tons of head knowledge didn’t make Chris a legend. He was a legend because he put it into practice on the battlefield.

When the enemy entered his view on the cross hairs of his rifle scope, Chris pulled the trigger. He didn’t enjoy it but he didn’t regret it either. It was his job to protect the lives of his fellow servicemen. Pulling the trigger accomplished that mission.

Chris also recognized the ripple effects of his job performance. Yes, he took the lives of Iraqis, but doing so saved the lives of countless others. In the immediate sense, it saved the lives of those at the other end of the Iraqi’s gun. It also rippled out into the future as each Iraqi he killed couldn’t kill American soldiers in the weeks, months, and years ahead. The ripples didn’t even stop there. Each time Chris successfully fired his rifle, he took one more step toward keeping the battle off American soil and away from his wife and kids.

Chris served faithfully.

His service was hard. His family suffered as did his health. Sometimes he was unable to save his military brothers. He lived in humble conditions while deployed. No one ever said it was easy to be a Navy SEAL. Likewise, no one ever said it will be easy to follow Christ. If it was, God could have called bunnies and kittens to fight the forces of evil. Instead, He called us – those He created in His image and in whom His Spirit dwells – because through Him He knew we could win the battle.

His service was met with criticism. Obviously, not everyone agrees with what Chris Kyle did. Yet Chris knew his purpose, did his job, and would do so again if he could as he knew it was the right thing to do. Similarly, not everyone is going to agree with or understand when we step up to the spiritual battle. That doesn’t matter; we do it because God called us to do it and it’s the right thing to do.

So in the end

War will continue on this planet. Even more, war will continue in the spiritual realm. Our enemy isn’t a person lined up in our crosshairs; our battle is against forces of evil and powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Some of us would like to sit in our pews, following a Christianity that denies hell and demonic forces where everyone lives pretty, peaceful lives. Recognition of Jesus’ teaching realizes, however, that following Christ sometimes means war. We have to enlist in the battle, develop our skill, study to know our purpose, do our job, and serve faithfully until the end.

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