On this Fourth of July I’m reminded of a movie I watched recently entitled, Unbroken. I read the book several years ago and have always wanted to see the movie, so when it was released on Netflix I seized the opportunity. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, Unbroken is based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who enlisted in the Air Force the same year Pearl Harbor was bombed. Not long after, while flying over the Pacific, the plane he was in crashed due to mechanical failure. After surviving on the open sea for forty-seven days, he was taken captive by the Japanese and spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp, where he was subjected to unceasing brutality and torture, mostly at the hands of one particular military commander.
Zamperini’s Christian faith undoubtedly played a pivotal role in his (spoiler alert) survival and eventual decision to become an evangelist. While it isn’t really highlighted in the film, there is a scene where Zamperini, while adrift at sea on the life raft, makes a promise to God that he will serve him the rest of his life if he provides a means for his rescue. Then, in the closing credits, the movie explains the way Zamperini kept his promise was by returning to Japan years later to forgive his abusers, even the one who had hurt him the most.
Today we are grateful for the freedom we enjoy because of men and women who, like Zamperini, were willing to risk their lives, or even lost their lives, in defense of it. But Zamperini’s story highlights an ever greater kind of freedom, the freedom that comes when, by God’s grace, we are able to forgive those who have sinned against us. Feelings like anger, revenge, and resentment can serve as a type of prison that keeps us in bondage, stealing from us the joy, peace and rest that God has for us, and even preventing us from experiencing the fullness of his forgiveness. Our ability to forgive others flows from our realization of an amazing truth, that we have all sinned against God, and yet he has graciously forgiven us through the death of his Son, Jesus. If there is anyone in your life that you are struggling to forgive, I pray that you will cooperate with God’s grace and do what would otherwise be impossible, so that you can celebrate an exponentially greater kind of freedom on this Fourth of July holiday.