As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
The United Kingdom’s Eric Liddell was the athlete who refused to run on a Sunday in the 1924 Olympics. Chariots of Fire was the movie made famous by his story. If you watched it, you might remember Liddell’s notable line: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Later, when asked from where he drew his strength, he answered, “The secret of my success over the 400 meters is that I run the first 200 meters as hard as I can. Then, for the second 200 meters, with God’s help, I run harder.”
In 2016, On Wings of Eagles was released, depicting the rest of Liddell’s life as a missionary/teacher in China who refused to leave as the Japanese advanced, staying behind to continue his work after sending his pregnant wife to Canada with their two daughters. Liddell was captured and ended up in a Japanese internment camp.
After watching the movie alone one evening, I knew it was one I wanted Dave and my visiting friends—very academic, total history buffs– to see. After viewing it, we discussed the history of that war and the inhumane treatment the Japanese inflicted on their prisoners. I learned more than I wanted to know.
Then one of our friends questioned why more of Jesus was not illustrated. Liddell’s faith and love of the Bible were apparent as he sacrificially protected and offered hope to his fellow prisoners, but omitting the redemptive story of forgiveness and the Cross was painfully absent. She questioned why screenwriters are so afraid of offending their audiences and consequently stop short of crossing the Jesus’ line, that showing the Olympian teaching the young children Bible stories was not enough. Liddell’s faith was so strong, surely he shared Jesus with his fellow prisoners. So, why was that not included? To her, it was a representation of how our world-view is changing which led to an exchange about laws before Congress that are hell-bent on leaving God out of everything.
I said that I was pleased to see any faith characterized, and even if it lacked boldness, it was evident throughout the movie that Liddell was a prayer warrior who relied on God for his strength as he set up church services, schooling, and sporting activities for the children, as well as cared for the sick. Our talk continued as we discussed how Christian movies now are far superior to those produced a few years ago.
That conversation was revisited this past Friday when Dave and I had dinner with Gene and Carol Kent. Carol was here in Jupiter, Florida, speaking at a local church for Mothers’ Day. I shared the interchange we had had the previous week with our other, mutual friends. Carol asked if we had seen Unplanned, a bold, new release based on the memoir of Abby Johnson who left Planned Parenthood to be an advocate against abortion. Carol shared that she recently had attended its premier with Solomon, the writer of the Unplanned’s screenplay, who happened to be at Carol’s house helping her finalize her latest book. At the premier, Carol stood up before the movie began—an atypical, bold move for her, she admitted– and introduced the screenwriter to the audience. At the end of the movie, Carol was thrilled that Solomon got a standing ovation.
I love these kinds of exchanges, where Christian lives intersect with various perspectives and experiences and where sometimes we might have to agree to disagree. Most of the time, I am keenly aware that we are not “iron sharpening iron” but more like “iron sharpening rusty, tin can, but I always leave these conversations knowing that my faith has been strengthened because God has been honored in what we had to say.
Now, if I could just do that all the time…