Shooting at the Wrong Tanks

So just like Trevor did this week, I’m going to include some movie spoilers in my post today. Only my movie is 20 years olds, so you basically you have no excuse.
Courage Under Fire follows the story of Lieutenant Colonel Sterling (played by Denzel Washington), a tank commander during the Gulf War. During a confusing nighttime battle, Sterling mistakenly fires on an American tank, killing a friend in the process.

As he is investigating the circumstances around another incident during the war, we see Sterling dealing with the guilt and shame of his actions (which the government covered up). He abuses alcohol and becomes increasingly despondent.

It’s not until the end of the movie, when he seeks the forgiveness of the family of his slain friend, that he finds a modicum of peace.

Friendly fire is an ugly reality of war. It’s something our governments would rather not face and has dreadful effects upon the soldiers involved. But in the chaos of war, where bullets are fired and bombs dropped, it is an unavoidable circumstance.

I hope you have had a chance to read through the prayer by Anslem of Canterbury. I realize it’s long and can be a bit cumbersome, but there are several lines that have stuck with me. These in particular:

Tender Lord Jesus,
let me not be the cause of the death of my brothers,
let me not be to them a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.
For it is more than enough, Lord 
that I should be a scandal to myself, 
my sin is sufficient to me.
Your slave begs you for his fellow slaves, 
lest because of me they offend 
against the kindness of so good and great a Lord.
Let them be reconciled to you and in concord with me, 
according to your will and for your own sake.

These words clarify some things for me. I’ve always silently assented to Jesus’ words about loving our enemies. I know they are true. I trust that they are part of living an eternal life here and now. But I have struggled understanding how this is actually done.

There are a couple things in this prayer that lighten the path for me just a bit.

First, he calls them brothers. Not enemies. Brothers. As Trevor said the other day, Jesus came to show us that we are all on the same team. Perhaps the first step to really loving my enemies is to understand that they are not my enemies at all, but siblings. It’s much easier to love a sibling than it is an enemy.

Second, he admits he’s got enough trouble of his own. Who needs enemies when I can mess things up all by myself? And I frequently do. The world is scary and confusing and has enough problems of its own. I have enough trouble navigating it that I don’t need to antagonize anyone else along the way.

And finally, he doesn’t want to be an obstacle for anyone else. He realizes that when we view one another as enemies, we rarely deal with the real issues. Instead we demonize another, making them the problem rather than our own issues. In doing so we simply become obstacles in one another’s way and avoid dealing with problems.
Courage under fire
Praying for our enemies essentially means that we admit we’re fighting the wrong battles. Although others may cause very real problems for us, they are not the enemy. And when we go to war with them, we only end up hurting them and ourselves.

We end up shooting at the wrong tanks.

May we all keep our eye on the real enemy. May we have the courage to admit our own problems and have patience with others, even when they act wrongly toward us out of their own pain. May we heed well the words of Paul:

“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:17-18


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