September 9, 2001 Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks released the iconic series, Band of Brothers, that tells the true story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army during the last year of WW II in Europe. The 10-part miniseries won acclaim via Emmy and Golden Globe awards and is still watched through various media.
What is the appeal of the story of WW II given how many books and films have been produced since that war ended?
We own the series and as we have watched it multiple times its messages and themes resonate each time we view the series. Leadership is a central theme as you watch what it takes to be a great leader and how that leadership develops. The series gives you excellent examples of great leadership as well as very poor leadership. That key attribute of Easy Company greatly impacts the morale of this “band of brothers” and makes all the difference as you watch them in the midst of great fear move out with great courage.
The men of this company were seemingly ordinary men whose characters develop as the war progresses. They show you the pithy vulnerable ways they deal with loss and the relationships that develop from it and are impacted because of it.
These men were real in every sense of the word and perhaps that is what draws us into the film, the story first penned by Stephen Ambrose. We can feel like we are a part of the story and because of that we learn something about ourselves in many cases.
There was another “band of brothers” that can come to mind that were never filmed in a miniseries, but whose lives left an impact as well. The disciples of Jesus were such in many ways and as their lives unfold throughout the New Testament, we learn much as their lives are transformed and their characters develop. This story is one of real men also with flaws and weaknesses, failings and faults, but just as with Easy Company those do not diminish the impact of their lives on history, on us.
We are drawn to stories of ordinary men who are used in mighty ways because we know we are at best, ordinary ourselves.
What is harder to experience is the camaraderie we see in the story of the disciples as well as the story of Easy Company. In these examples despite differences in personality they joined together steadfastly to be for and with one another no matter what your background or where you came from.
For them, the greater cause was so valued all common things were set aside.
I wonder if that is one of the reasons, we miss it.
Have we become so self-focused, so individualistic, that we no longer connect with each other around the greater cause against a war that is largely unseen but comes into clearer focus each day as we watch the world upend in so many ways we have not seen before?
Have we failed to notice the subtle things that have been influencing us for years that have become unconscious habits and behaviors that now reflect a very different story than the one we are called to live?
Peter gives an example of the transformation of his character and understanding as he writes in 1 Peter:
“Now this is the goal: to live in harmony with one another and demonstrate affectionate love, sympathy, and kindness toward other believers. Let humility describe who you are as you dearly love one another.”
1 Peter 3:8 (TPT)
The apostle John writes about this often in his Gospel and epistles.
“For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.”
John 15:13 (TPT)
It can be easy to not dive into this verse and miss that sacrifices come in many sizes and shapes beyond physically dying. The verse takes aim at our self-focus, our demand that our preferences be preferred above those of others.
James K.A. Smith has suggested that our hearts are like a compass in his book, You Are What You Love. Consider his challenge to us:
“The reminder for us is this: if the heart is like a compass, an erotic homing device, then we need to (regularly) calibrate our hearts, tuning them to be directed to the Creator, our magnetic north. It is crucial for us to recognize that our ultimate loves, longings, desires, and cravings are learned. And because love is a habit, our hearts are calibrated through imitating exemplars and are being immersed in practices that, over time, index our hearts to a certain end. We learn to love, then, not primarily by acquiring information about what we should love but rather through practices that form the habits of how we love.”
We see in Easy Company how platoon leader, Richard Winters, shapes this “band of brothers” over the 10-part series. What a difference the life of one man whose compass is true can make.
Jesus provides that example to the disciples who walked the earth with Him as well and He sought to recalibrate their hearts and help them to learn how to love as He lived it out before them.
If we want something different from we are experiencing now, our hearts will need to be recalibrated to become a compass pointed toward Him.
Our heart will not be transformed by what we love, or what we think, but how He loves as we seek his transformation.