Men of Action
Men of Action
Remember that scene in The Princess Bride where Wesley and Buttercup come out of the Fire Swamp having just survived the three terrors: flame spurts, lightning sand, and R.O.U.S’s? No? Then please stop reading immediately and go watch the movie.
Now I’ll continue. The six fingered man named Count Rugen is there waiting for them. He threatens to kill Wesley, until Buttercup intervenes and makes the Count promise to return Wesley to his ship. He agrees to this promise just as Buttercup is whisked away, leaving Wesley there alone. Rugen then offers to take him to his ship, to which Wesley replies: “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.”
Here’s what he’s saying: “Let’s stop pretending and get on to what is really true. As men of action, we aren’t going to sit around and pretend . . . we are going to act!”
This term “men of action” really stirs my imagination as a follower of Jesus. I’m currently reading a book called Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris (See this article on TGC). Do Hard Things is a great treatise on the increasingly low expectations placed on teenagers in our culture. The Harris’ challenge for the reader is to revolt against this cultural norm, a norm that often leaves teenagers in their parents’ basement playing video games well into their young adult lives. They challenge adolescents to step up and act. They call them to do hard things.
So, why do I find myself so inspired by this message?
I think one of the most energizing passages in Scripture is found in Matthew, chapter four. Jesus walks along the sea and finds Peter and Andrew casting their nets into the ocean. He calls out to them to follow Him, and the Bible tells us that they immediately drop their nets and do just that. A little ways down the beach they come across James and John fixing the nets for their upcoming fishing trip. Again, Jesus calls out to them, and with the same immediate response, the sons of Zebedee follow Him. They didn’t have a theology degree. They couldn’t articulate the gospel. Heck, they really didn’t even know exactly who this ‘Jesus’ was yet.
The call of Jesus was a call to action. And I think that in spite of their many failures along the way, the disciples could rightfully be called Men of Action.
My favorite experiences in my own ministry over the past 12 months have each involved watching my students do ministry together. We’ve had a busy year. We served a meal and offered a chapel service at a rescue mission; we went to a Walmart and handed out gift cards to strangers, to share the love of Jesus with them; we acted on behalf of those caught in human trafficking by doing an 8 hour Stand for Freedom; we put on a field day event for a camp in a neighboring low economic area; we orchestrated not one but two week-long camp sessions, raked leaves and cleaned up yards for elderly folks, and served a Thanksgiving meal to immigrants. Whew!
Why are these my favorite experiences? I think it’s because in these moments and days and weeks, I have been able to watch my students drop their fishing nets and cell phones, and follow Jesus into action.
To be clear, there are definite pitfalls that need to be navigated in this conversation. Our Gospel understanding makes it abundantly clear that just as salvation is by faith without works, our sanctification is not based on our scorecard of good works either.
However, we aren’t called to a passive faith. James makes it abundantly clear that faith without works is dead. Or what about when Jesus says that the ones He is going to welcome into His kingdom are the ones who saw Him in need and took action?
Men of Action don’t impress God with their deeds. Rather, they are the ones so motivated by Jesus’ action on their behalf that they can’t help but drop their nets and follow Him.
This Sunday evening Sam, one of my students, will teach during our youth group meeting. Sam has spoken to me in the past about our youth ministry’s need for stronger student leadership. So I asked him to do a talk about leadership. To be honest, Sam is walking through his own set of struggles. He is very “messy” (aren’t we all). He and I have spent a lot of time talking about his struggles. While there is plenty of room for wise youth leaders to land in different places on what students should be given the opportunity to teach, I decided it was time for Sam to act. Not because Sam has reached some higher level of maturity than the others, but because I believe that this action of teaching will bear more fruit than us sitting and continuing to talk about it over and over.
By the way, Sam and I had our most fruitful meeting yet as we planned his talk together this week!
In The Princess Bride, Wesley was the epitome of a Man of Action. Ever motivated by his true love, he passionately chased after and rescued her. As he so eloquently put it, “Death cannot stop true love!”
We also know of One who pursued and rescued His true love, even at the cost of death! Jesus is the Man of Action. He acted by becoming fully God and fully man and culminated with His ultimate action – His sacrifice for us on the cross. May this act ever motivate me and my youth ministry to be His followers as Men of Action!