Friday, June 29, 2007

Warfare and Friendship in The Lord of the Rings

I watched "Lord of the Rings" episode three "The Return of the King" this morning and found much worth thinking about in Tolkien's classic tale.

The epic battle at the climax of the film reminds me that as Christians we are in a spiritual battle. "Our warfare is not against flesh and blood but against the powers, principalities and spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places..." We fight this battle in the unseen realm, yet it is a battle to be sure.

Frodo and Sam fight a personal battle while their friends wage a great warfare against the teeming hords of wickedness. As the troops prepare for battle their leaders exhort them to take courage, to stand firm, to go forth in honor, and so on. Do we as pastors and elders and spiritual leaders issue similar exhortations often enough? Are we aware of the battle our people face every day? Do we take it seriously enough? Are we LEADING them into the battle or are we waiting in the wings in fear or reluctance? Do we understand the nature of the battle and what it takes to wage such warfare?

The friendships born of adversity in the film are striking:

Frodo's friend Sam walks and climbs every step with him to Mt. Doom. Not only does he walk beside his friend, he fights for him and in the end he literally carries Frodo when he can no longer walk on his own. When Frodo reminds Sam that only he can carry the burden of the ring to the mountain, Sam responds by saying that though he cannot carry the ring, he can carry Frodo and proceeds to lift him over his shoulder for the last leg of the climb to the top.

Do you have a friend like that? Are you a friend who will carry his brother when he is carrying a great burden?

The white wizard Gandalf, Strider who is later discovered to be the heir to the throne of Gondor, the dwarf Gimli, the elfin warrior and others fight valiantly against the Orcs and everything else ugly and wicked in their world, all "for Frodo" in his quest to defeat the overwhelming powers of wickedness.

Do we fight FOR one another in our quest to defeat the powers of wickedness in our world, or are we found more often fighting WITH one another? Fighting together builds deep and lasting bonds. My heart aches for such deep and lasting friendships.

The battle is not for the fainthearted. We must stand and FIGHT. But we do our best when we stand and fight TOGETHER.

I conclude with the words of Martin Luther from the hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

"And tho this world with devils filled/Should threaten to undo us/We will not fear for God has willed/His truth to triumph thru us/The prince of darkness grim/We tremble not for him/His rage we can endure/For lo his doom is sure/One little word shall fell him."

"That Word above all earthly powers/No thanks to them abideth/The Spirit and the gifts are ours/ Thru Him who with us sideth/Let goods and kindred go/This mortal life also/The body they may kill/God's truth abideth still/His kingdom is forever."

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