Authored by Mara Hodler
The movie Shenandoah is set during the American Civil War. It’s a moving story of a Southern family caught up in the conflict of the day. The patriarch of the family, Charlie Anderson, continually shuts down the urges of his sons who want to join the war. Charlie wants to remain neutral and uninvolved until the war actually concerned his family.
Until the war, they had a pretty good life. The family owned a large farm; the six sons were all grown men and they had made the farm profitable. They were comfortable and beginning to marry and start families of their own. The father had lost his wife, but between seeing his children grow up strong, happy, and wise and seeing the farm prosper, he was content with his life.
One day the youngest son, Boy, goes out raccoon hunting with his friend and stumbles onto a Confederate ambush. They turn on their heels and run to get away from the ambush. When they think they’re out of harm’s way, the two boys stop at a stream to get a drink of water. At the stream, Boy finds an old rebel cap (the Confederates were rebels) and absentmindedly puts it on. Not a minute later a Union patrol happens upon the boys and they mistake Boy as a rebel soldier. The Union soldiers take him as a prisoner of war.
His friend escapes and runs back to the farm to tell Charlie what had befallen his son. Now, all of a sudden, the war concerns him very much. He goes from being a bystander of the war to throwing himself all out into the fray to rescue his son. He tells his sons, “It’s our war now.” The fight became personal. He was not taking up arms because one government or another urged him to do so, but because if he did not take action, the life of someone he loved was in danger.
Once he made the decision that this was his war, he didn’t need anyone to tell him what to do. He didn’t need to be motivated; fighting for what he loved was all the motivation he needed. It’s a very good story, and if you are able to get your hands on movies from the 1960s, you might enjoy watching it. There are some good twists (and a happy ending, of course).
The part I want to address in this podcast, however, is the “it’s my war now” stance that the main character takes in the story. You’ve probably heard the saying, “God does not have any grandchildren.” A Christian heritage might be something you can inherit, but discipleship is not. There comes a time when you choose to believe in and follow Jesus; and your decision, at its core, has nothing to do with your upbringing, culture, or comfort. It’s a personal choice, and only you can make it.
I can identify with Charlie Anderson. I always knew of Jesus, and I think I loved Him, but it took me a while to really cast my lot in with it, so to speak. If life is comfortable for you and you can avoid the hardship that accompanies discipleship … well, who wants hardship, right? Making the choice to take a stand and be counted as a “soldier” for Jesus is also making you a target. Yikes!
But here’s the thing, spiritual warfare is real whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. Satan is out to hinder, thwart, and stop God’s plan for mankind. God is not going to let him. This war of good versus evil goes far, far beyond the boundaries of any church, religious movement, race, or civilization. We’re all involved whether we like it or not.
We can either “arm up”1 spiritually and make a difference in the fight by doing our part to reach the world with the Gospel through our living example, or hope to be in all the right places at the right times dodging every bullet that comes our way. Doing that is trickier than it sounds and probably more trouble than it’s worth.
But all of that means nothing until we make the choice to “make it our war.” Once the battle becomes personal, then, like Charlie Anderson, we won’t just be a casual observer of what’s going on around us, but rather we’ll be one who is determined to make a difference.
It starts when you finally understand why all those little decisions matter and that you want to be sharp and ready for what God needs you to do. Like a soldier trains daily, whether he’s deployed or not, you decide that you need to be active in your spiritual preparation. Your “missions” will probably be everyday things most of the time. Mine are. Things like being a peacemaker, being diligent, taking time to look out for the needs of others, and lots of stuff like that. That’s okay. I understand that even those little things have an impact on the overall “war effort.”
The point is that I have made the personal choice to devote my best efforts to the cause of Christ. It’s not something that I do because my parents did or didn’t, or because my friends do or don’t do. It’s something I do because God’s fight has become my fight and I want to ensure as many wins as I can for our side.
1 Ephesians 6:10–18
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International