“American Sniper” has become the most successful box office movie in its genre, surpassing even “Saving Private Ryan,” and has been nominated for several Academy Awards. It is a deeply patriotic movie that has stirred the hearts of millions and has initiated many important conversations. It is a movie of sacrifice and suffering that reveals the brutal realities of war which all soldiers face while guarding and protecting freedom, in addition to the continued pain they endure, even after they return home.
Chris Kyle’s very first kill ironically isn’t a uniformed soldier — it is a young child who is about to throw a grenade at a group of American soldiers. That scene was probably much more poignant in real life than it was on the screen. It’s impossible to capture the anguish he had to endure making that call. I’m glad that I’ve never been faced with having to make such painful decisions such as that. Without reminders like this, we lose sight of the fact that valor sometimes calls on us to do the unthinkable.
I can’t be critical of the efforts of our young troops. Some of them I’ve known since they were preschoolers. I love our country and the young people defending Her. I’ve never taken up arms to defend my country, so at best all I can do is to be thankful for people who do. Still, I’m uneasy with the demands of war.
The real value of the movie wasn’t about motivating me towards a love of God, country and family; I already hold these virtues. Most people watching the movie would hold those values too. Instead, for me, the value of the movie was in its potential to remind us of the tension between facing an enemy head on and how we are called as believers to treat our enemies.
“American Sniper” reminded me of how perpetually painful war is, and while it seems there will never be an end to war, it has to end one day. It reminds me that while I don’t happen to have a better solution for containing terrorism than war, our dual citizenship in the world and the Kingdom is a tension-filled paradox which calls for us to doggedly pursue a better way.
“American Sniper” also reminded me of my inadequacies of reaching out to people whose hearts won’t be reached through military interventions. There are people all across the world who hate us and want to hurt us. What can I do to influence them in ways that could reduce the violence and bloodshed? Praying for our enemies, as a first step, is one step that’s necessary — but it’s insufficient to really end war once and for all. Still, history teaches us enemies can sit down at the same table and agree to cease their fighting.
After years of ferocious fighting, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979. Today, we are solid allies with England, who we once fought for our freedom. The Mason Dixon line is now a footnote in history. Wars can come to an end, as we’ve seen. Right now it’s hard to see an end to our current battles, but we must look forward to a better day.
Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of war but those events should not alarm us, He said that they “must take place” before the end of time. I know one day God will conclude His work and the end will come. Movies like “American Sniper” remind me of my inability to fight evil effectually, or to even come up with a solution to combat it, all of which heightens my deepest need for a God who will one day vanquish death itself.
Until that day comes, I’m called to love my enemies and to pray for those who would persecute me — to even give them a cup of cold water. While none of us want war, nor do we want our troops to stand in harm’s way, we know there has to be a better day coming. Hopefully one day, you who are students today will be the peacemakers, bringing the different sides together, being the mediators God sends to help. My prayers aren’t just for my enemies, my prayers are for your generation — that yours will be the one who ushers in a new age of peace where the Kingdom of God sways the hearts of the nations till we finally beat our swords into plowshares.