I don’t like the Vietnam era or anything related to it. I lived in the midst of it, had friends who lost relatives in the war and friends who fought in the war and were never the same. For that reason, as much as I like war documentaries, I never watch anything about Vietnam, except for “We Were Soldiers”. The movie is a 2002 film that dramatizes the Battle of Ia Drangon that took place on November 14, 1965.
If I’d known the movie was about Vietnam I might not have watched it. However, once I started watching it, I was hooked. It wasn’t so much the plot that attracted me as much as a segment of a speech the protagonist of the movie, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson) gives to his men right before they head to Vietnam:
This I swear before the Almighty God: when we go into the battle, I’ll be first to set foot on the field. I’ll be the last to step off. I’ll leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we’ll all come home together. So help me God.
The statement touched me deeply. All my life I’d lived by that creed, but this was the first time someone had articulated it for me. I’m the type of a leader who likes to get close to his people — become buddy-buddy. I refuse to shove my position down anyone’s throat in order to prove my superiority. Those who know me, know very well that as a Christian leader I’ll never send my people anywhere I’ve not been myself, nor expect them to accomplish anything I haven’t or at least attempted to do myself. And, because of that I was called a loser.
I must have really ticked off the mega-church pastor when he looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re a loser because you have no respect for your position and want to be buddy-buddy with everyone.” In other words, I was a loser because I was too close and friendly with those around me.
“Pastor,” I said to the man, “when Jesus walked among us, he refused to ride on a horse. He preferred to rub elbows with those around him, the sinners and the scum of the earth. He didn’t give a crap about his position when the religious leaders of his time accused him of being ‘buddy-buddy’ with common people. However, when He comes back, He’ll be riding on a horse to smash the heads of God’s enemies.”
For the sake of honor, I’m one of those leaders who refuses to ride a horse while fighting along side of his people. I’d rather be the first to set foot on the field and last to step off than one who sits behind his desk in an air-conditioned mansion of an office telling others how to do things I’ve never done myself. I’d rather be called a “buddy” by the forsaken than a “winner” by the likes of that pastor.
When I was in 5th grade in Iran, we read a story about one of the old kings of our country. The king loved to read. One late night as he was reading, the oil in his lamp ran out. His servant, who was standing behind him, reached over to take the lamp away for refilling when the king stopped him.
“I will do it myself,” said the king to the servant.
Absolutely shocked and dismayed, the servant replied, “But sire, it is beneath his majesty to do such a menial job.” But, he could not argue with his king.
So, the king got up, refilled the lamp and sat down to read. Knowing that his servant was still uncomfortable with what had just transpired, he turned around looking the servant in the eyes said to him, “When the oil ran out I was the king, when I got up and filled the lamp I was the king and when I finally sat down again I was still the king. Doing a servant’s job did NOT take away my kingly position.
Pastor...leader, do you ever befriend people for no reason at all, or are there always strings attached? Do you ever go out of your way to rub elbows with those who are not in your class, or is getting off your high horse too uncomfortable for you? As I look around today, I notice that a true friendship is one of the most desired, and yet most lacking commodities in our society. Why not be a loser in order to become that desired commodity? Maybe then you’ll gain the ability and privilege to share the Gospel of Christ with those whom you’ve become “buddies” with.