Thursday, December 12, 2013


I enjoy spending time with my son.  Usually that time is spent eating at Five Guys, wrestling or playing video games.  To date, we have never crash-landed on a desolate planet and had to fight our way through a jungle in order to call home for help.  While that has not happened to me or my son, it is the basic storyline for the M. Night Shyamalan’s summer 2013 sci-fi film After Earth.  In the film, a military hero who has recently decided to retire from battle in order to train troops and spend more time with his family (Will Smith) is called out on an exploration mission with a crop of newly-trained soldiers, including his son (Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s son).  During the course of the mission, their ship crash-lands on a desolate planet, one where everything has evolved to kill humans.  Ironically, the planet is Earth, our original home-world.  Raige (Will Smith) discovers that the ship ripped in half during the crash and that the homing beacon is in the half of the ship on the other side of the planet.  (Well, not really, however it is a really long way away.)  Unable to go on the mission, Raige sends his son, an untested trainee, to recover the beacon.  To do this, the young man will have to muster something within himself that he does not believe he has—courage.  Yet, through each near-disastrous encounter, the young man summons the courage he needs to complete his mission and save himself and his father.

In his sermon “But If Not,” Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed the issue of courage by connecting it to our faith in God.  In the midst of the Civil Right Movement, King witnessed many cave under the pressures of racism while also seeing many others rise through the flames of hatred to achieve peace.  In response to this, King spoke about how we approach persecution and struggle.  Some of us, he said, approach these issues from an “if” perspective: if we meet oppression; if we encounter hatred; if we endure suffering.  King noted that people who have this approach often buckle under the pressure because they are not living courageously and therefore do not trust fully in God.  On the other hand, King noted, those who live with a “though” attitude endure through the struggles because they trust fully in God.  They know that hardship and crisis will come.  Yet they have staked their tents on God’s soil and do not plan on being removed from the Promised Land.  “Though I may walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil,” these folks would say.  Faithfully courageous people do not live in fear of suffering.  They know that will come and are ready to meet it head-on.

These stories remind me of a passage in Psalms 27 where the poet calls for God for teach him of God’s way so that he can triumphantly overcome his adversaries (27:11-14).  There is one line in the movie that relates well with this passage.  Raige says, “Danger is very real.  However fear is in our minds.”  The person who lives with King’s “though” faith realizes that the world is a dangerous place.  However, we have confidence in God that God will bring us through whatever comes our way and that we “shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

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