Friday, August 4, 2017

Dunkirk, A Good Movie which Could have been Great

We went to see Dunkirk.  The movie is a historically realistic depiction of the heroic evacuation of the British army which was trapped at Dunkirk.  The rating is PG-13, which limits what is shown in terms of the blood and gore that are part of warfare. Nevertheless, the movie powerfully captures the sheer terror of modern warfare in which people made of flesh face bombs that can shatter them, fires that can burn them, and steel ships which can crush them. It is not a movie for the faint of heart.

In the midst of the terror of warfare, the movie shows a range of human reactions. Some of the men cower in shock and fear.  Some act selfishly, only thinking to save themselves, even at the cost of others.  But the movie also shows several examples of incredible, heroic courage. The RAF pilots are willing to sacrifice everything to protect the men on the ships and the beaches.  And then there are the civilian boat owners who take unarmed yachts and other crafts and sail them right into a war zone where they come under enemy fire while helping with the evacuation.

In addition to these individual acts of courage by the men directly involved in the evacuation, the movie also reminds us that it was Dunkirk which prompted Churchill’s famous speech which rallied England to stand alone against Nazi Germany after all of Europe had fallen and before the US entered the war.  It was at the end of the evacuation of Dunkirk that Churchill said:

. . . we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. (You can read the whole speech here) 

So, despite some PG-13 language issues, I feel Dunkirk is a good movie and I recommend it.  It is a good movie.  But, it could have been a great movie.  What kept it from being great was not anything they put in the movie, but what they left out. They left out prayer, and they left out God.

An Example of Powerful Intercessory Prayer

On May 26, 1940, as it became apparent just how desperate the situation was for the 400,000 British soldiers surrounded at Dunkirk, the King of England called for a national day of prayer.  And people responded.  As the soldiers were lining up for evacuation on the beaches, and as fleets of boats and ships were lined up making the dangerous crossing, thousands of Christians were lining up to enter churches and pray. You can watch a short YouTube clip of this here:

Outnumbered, under attack from the German air force above, German u-boats below, and an advancing German army on the ground, the British were able to rescue over 300,000 of the soldiers. The surprising success of the evacuation was so unexpected that even before it was completed it was being referred to as “the Miracle of Dunkirk”. People prayed.  God answered.  The people recognized it as a miracle.

There’s a few lessons we can learn about united, intercessory prayer.

1.  It works.

2.  While God answers prayer, this does not mean that we don’t have to struggle and sacrifice.  God’s answer to the people’s prayers included giving many Allied soldiers, airman, seamen, and civilians great courage under fire.  Many sacrificed their lives so that their brothers could live and fight another day.

3.  God sometimes uses people you wouldn’t suspect. Because of the shallow water near the beach, it was difficult to use naval destroyers to evacuate the army.  Part of the solution was requisitioning a large number of private boats with shallow drafts.  Most of these private boats were manned by members of the Royal Navy.  However, among the heroes of Dunkirk were some civilian boat owners and fishermen who courageously took their own boats across the channel.  They were not unaware that they would face mines, German u-boats, attacks from German aircraft, and fire from artillery on shore.  They went anyways and helped to save many lives.

So the real story of Dunkirk is not only a story of the terrors of war and the courage some men show in such circumstances. It is that, but it is much more.  It is a story of many Christians joining together in prayer and God answering their prayers with a miracle that helped to save Britain and may have changed the outcome of the war.

I pray that we will not face a situation like Dunkirk. Yet, in a way, we are facing such a situation. There is just as much need for intercessory prayer today as there was in 1940.  Many of our friends, neighbors, and even some of our family members are perishing without Christ.  They are under siege from an enemy much worse than Nazi Germany.  If they are not saved by faith in Christ they will eternally perish.  Our prayers will make a difference.  One of the ways God will answer our prayers is to strengthen many to make sacrifices and suffer loss for the Name of Christ and the cause of the gospel.

NIV Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

NIV Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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