Mel Gibson’s latest film, Hacksaw Ridge, was a religious experience for me. You’d probably never expect to hear anything like that about a war movie so agonizingly violent. But there’s a cross in the title when it appears on the screen. And the Sermon on the Mount is at the heart of the story.
Perhaps you already know the plot. Desmond Doss is a devout follower of Christ, a Seventh Day Adventist who carries a Bible with him when he goes off to World War II. Because he has taken a vow never to touch a weapon, he enlists as a conscientious objector and volunteers to serve as a medic. Remarkably, the movie manages to celebrate Doss’ principled refusal to fight, without ever demeaning the character or convictions of the warriors all around him who do risk their lives to wage the war for freedom.
Amid the carnage of a just war, Hacksaw Ridge brings to life some of the most noble ideas of the gospel: turning the other cheek, blessing those who hate you, praying for those who despitefully use you, demonstrating mercy to your enemies. You’d never expect to see forgiveness play such a prominent role in a drama so charged with gunfire and explosions! And I cannot remember when any other major motion picture has portrayed the call of God with so much majesty and respect.
As the heroic Army medic roams a vast battlefield of terror and death, all the while praying, “Lord, let me save one more,” all I could see through my tears was a man carrying a cross. I was jolted by the reality of how little courage is required for my level of sacrifice on the battlefields of life today. Each of us is called to pick up a cross and follow.
Everybody’s different: Hacksaw Ridge may be too bloody for you. I would suggest it might be worth occasionally closing your eyes to let one saint’s testimony rock your world. I expect to encourage all the leaders at our church to experience this story on the big screen. It’s truly a keeper.
Lift up the Cross!