To End All Wars – The Heart of Mercy

I finally secured my copy of “To End All Wars” (2001). It was as powerful as it was brutal. What a masterpiece! I rarely watch movies but since this one came so highly recommended by two esteemed friends in the faith, I stayed the course alone, enthralled with the many apparent contradictions of life. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 1Cor 12:10 (ESV) The movie’s native POW setting and graphic details were certain to violate my wife Debbie’s gentle sensibilities–so I spared her from such.

This is on the order of a modern day Passion of the Christ. Every emotion imaginable is intertwined within this beautifully scripted work of art.

Writer Brian Gadawa deals with the worst depravity has to offer against the qualities found only in those endowed with the Spirit of Christ. Gadawa who wrote an excellent paper, “The Promise to Abraham” (a must read regarding the true “Israel of God”) is no stranger to the concepts of bigotry and the stereotypes that foster oppression and devalue human life.

Even the hate, fear and vengeance that are on stark display in the brutality of war, wilt under the incredible pressure of mercy and forgiveness. It’s what the Christianity of Scriptures would look like today had it not been hijacked by the mindset of the average westernized 21st century believer. Kill the Islamofascists before they kill us we cry. Evangelist Rod Parsley said, “Amercia was founded in part by seeing this false religion (Islam) destroyed”. “Destroyed” is a very volitile word that serves to inflame the passions of Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Is Parsely speaking of destruction through peaceful conversion by the non-violent gospel-preaching methods of Peter and Paul (murdered by their audience) or ultimately by military aggression? Since I’ve had time to reflect over these past 2 1/2 years, today’s vitriol that emanates from the mega-church’s “religious right”, seems so foreign to the message of the New Testament. Have we not lost the message of Christ? Were the beatitudes to be confined to Christ’s earthly existence?

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Turn the other cheek. Vengeance is mine says the Lord. Until recently, these concepts were totally foreign to me. I read them as though they had no relevance in my life. I had a sense of duty to help others pay the price for making me uncomfortable (but always with the rationalization that it was a righteous indignation). In reality more like sinful resignation.

To End All Wars” presents a model of first century Christianity in its finest hour, where hope, sacrifice and a passionate commitment to Christ, overcome the most horrific adversity of torture and ultimately death.

Acts 7:60 (NASB) Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

Do we not all long to have the compassion of Stephen, capable of truly loving our enemies with this kind of selfless abandon? Can we joyfully accept the “plundering of our goods”? (Don’t forget the context of the following Hebrews’ passage written in the latter part of the 60’s AD, just prior to the Destruction of Jerusalem. Audience relevance must be constantly on our minds, especially as we reach verse 37, which was the short term hope of these heavily persecuted believers)

Hebrews 10:32-37 (NASB) But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. 37 For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.

“What is the final destination of hatred? When you look into the eyes of your enemy and you see yourself…” These were the disturbing words at the movie’s end. They dare us to look within.

Oh that I could be “Dusty”, a POW so captivated and saturated with the Gospel of Christ that he was completely compelled to live its message. A faith so tangible that it left him no choice but to demonstrate the love of Christ, not merely to his friends but to his enemies as well.

John 15:12-13 (NASB)“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

I thought the following excerpt from a Christianity Today review was extremely poignant:

Cunningham explains that the film is “not a Christian movie, and we don’t want it portrayed as one.” In an interview with The Oregonian, he elaborated: “The rating is an R and my frustration [with conservative Christians] is this: that over the last few years, all the great movies—Schindler’s List, Dead Man Walking, The Shawshank Redemption and Amistad—are all R-rated pictures, and everybody should be seeing them. They’ll accept PG-13 in The Fast and the Furious but not the R of Schindler’s List. The church should not be basing its decisions on that system, which covers such a range.”

When asked why he doesn’t follow the route of films like Left Behind and The Omega Code, Cunningham explains, “They almost seem to me like fear-motivated messages—’turn or burn’ kind of things. I don’t think they’re related to modern life. It may be well meaning, but none of these people are filmmakers; they’re all evangelists trying to use film. My heart and desire has been to make a film that causes you to think. It’s not based on fear, but on the struggles that we have inside us.”

Don’t get me wrong. This was not an easy movie to watch. It will not leave you feeling entertained. Neither did The Passion of the Christ. Both should be seen and assimilated. Drained you will be, and stretched for certain, but disappointed you will not be.

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