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To lay down one's life

Recently, I ran across this incidental post by Peter Chattaway at FilmChatBlog, and it got me thinking about the various ways we risk or give up our lives for the sake of another.

I call Chattaway’s post “incidental” because most of his posts focus on current films or films in development, but every so often he throws in some personal ones—and this one’s on his reaction to a particular musical arrangement in the score of Star Trek III: Search for Spock during the scene in which Captain James T. Kirk steals the Enterprise. This part caught my attention:

Both the movie and the soundtrack album are an odd mix of strengths and flaws, but man, the moment represented here -- the moment before Captain Stiles tells Admiral Kirk that he will never sit in the captain's chair again if he goes ahead with his plan, and Kirk very deliberately ignores Stiles and goes ahead with it -- always gets to me. I think the music at this point captures very well that sense of fateful choices being made, of intense loyalty causing friends to act outrageously on each other's behalf, of people facing life-and-death matters that are so important they are prepared to suffer the consequences for their decisions. Overall, of course, I prefer Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) -- both the film and the soundtrack album -- but there is something about a person openly disobeying his own people that is inherently more dramatic than a person fighting for survival against an enemy. As the late, great Albus Dumbledore once said, "It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."

I love this observation. It gets at how there’s more than one way of laying down one’s life on behalf of others, for love of another and for what’s right: There’s the giving up one’s physical life (like Spock did in Wrath of Khan or Harry did in Deathly Hallows), but there’s also the giving up of one’s livelihood and career, like Kirk did in Search for Spock.

The second way carries its own set of difficulties. Often, it is a moment that flies under the radar, which carries with it no glory. For Kirk, it meant being despised, misunderstood and perhaps pitied by his colleagues, some of whom probably understood his actions but thought them a waste or wild goose chase—certainly not worth giving up his career for. There’s a certain quantity of vision, tenacity, faith and courage that’s required to walk away from power, respect and security for the sake of one’s friends—essentially, for the love of another. While a choice of love and doing what’s right, Kirk’s moment didn’t carry the glory and respect of Spock’s sacrifice but instead was mired in disgrace.

While most of us probably won’t face the choice of sacrificing our physical lives for another, most of us already face choices of the second type—in both big and small moments. Some have already made those larger choices of walking away from their very livelihoods, beit for the sake of their families, ethical choices or the call of God to another way of life. But we also face smaller choices everyday—like sacrificing an agenda for the sake of others, paying attention as we go instead of focusing on what needs to be done, doing what’s best for another instead of what’s best for ourselves. And it’s those smaller choices that help us make the larger ones—both the choice to lay down our physical lives as well as our livelihoods and agendas.

It helps me to remember that Jesus himself walked away from power, respect and security in the desert after his baptism. Those choices led to three difficult years of being misunderstood, despised and pitied by many in his community. Those choices—and many others to put love of others above himself—led to his choice to give up his physical life. But his vision was on the Father, and he lived by that sight.

It also helps me to remember that we don’t have to live with these decisions alone. Kirk was surrounded by his long-time friends in his choices. And, while they sometimes failed in their support, Jesus had the love and friendship of the men and the women who walked with him. Likewise, life in the Kingdom is one of walking with others who hold the same vision and faith and love.

So, thanks to Peter Chattaway for his incidental post—and for bringing God-talk into open spaces.