Well, just like every other red-blooded American male (that includes Justin & Jason) I’ve been waiting for 8pm today for the return of JACK BAUER and the answer to all those questions like: Will Keifer get another Emmy? Will Jack be off his game with the scraggly beard and will Chloe be off hers with brunette hair? Will Jack still be carrying his “purse of whupping” with him? Is anybody worth paying forty million dollars for acting for 72 hours like Keifer’s new contract stipulates? Can I actually make it through another 24 hours of watching Jack?
By the way, why do I like watching this TV show so much? I know it’s something more than just the guns and violence and suspense and seeing the bad guys get what’s coming (although I do watch it for that!). I think Keifer had it pegged when he said in a recent interview that it is the characters and what they do in the context of one of those terrible days that they are thrust into.
So, what do I like about Jack Bauer? I thought about it, and I think what I like the most is that I could sum up his life in two words: NO COMPROMISE. Although I wouldn’t agree with every moral choice he has made (I sure wouldn’t like to be forced to make some of them), he has this set in concrete moral compass that is absolutely unmovable. He is going to do what he sees as right, regardless of the cost to him. As he himself stated, Jack Bauer is NOT FOR SALE.
Of course, when I said the words NO COMPROMISE, I had to think of another man, a real one, that I greatly admired, Keith Green. When he was convinced that something was right, it didn’t matter what anyone else said or how much it cost him, he did it. Not charge for concerts? Take people off the street into your home, and then start buying other houses when you ran out of space? Give away tens of thousands of albums and tracts just because people told you they didn’t have the spare cash to pay you? Come on, Keith, be reasonable, look at what everybody else does, be sensible, don’t be a fool…for Christ.
So, how about me? how about you? Are we piloting our lives solely and completely by what Christ is telling us? Or are we succumbing to the reasonable, to the safe, to the ordinary? I can choose, you can choose, this day whether you serve the God of the safe and the reasonable or the God of the Bible. Go ahead. Choose.
That’s the question posed by a commentator at Entertainment Weekly concerning the frenzied finale to season 5 of the TV show 24 last week. And a mixed bag it certainly was, with Jack and his buds finally bringing down the corrupt president, but not before a lot of innocent (and not so innocent) lives had been lost, and not before a lot of scars had been etched on the souls of all the major characters involved. Of course, Jack himself for all his work and sacrifice has to look forward to a lifetime of Chinese water torture. No wonder the commentator summed up his impressions thusly:
(The finale) validated the central theme of the season, which was, at bottom, the contradiction at the heart of this series: Can one man make a difference? Unlike any other series on TV, 24 suggests that the answer is probably no. It’s been great to see Kiefer Sutherland run, shoot, and outwit so many foes, but the layers of evil, corruption, and rot, fanned out last night to include the entire globe, seem for now at least to have defeated him. It takes guts to go out in a blaze of…defeat.
Whoa…enough with the nihlism already. He’s almost right: the layers of evil, corruption, and rot do permeate this planet, and it does take guts to buck it, and reality demonstrates that life is messy, that often a man does go out in a blaze of defeat, that life sometimes is more like the final scene of Saving Private Ryan than the final scene of Return of the Jedi.
So what’s wrong with this final conclusion, that one man can’t make a difference? Because this isn’t a universe on autopilot. This isn’t a universe whose fate is still undecided, or whose fate is being manipulated by some impersonal force. This universe was created by and for an omnipotent, omniscent being who is still running the show and calling all the shots. He came down into the story and became the main character, the one Man who truly did make a difference, and by his life and death and resurrection proved that He truly was the author of the story, and had already written a really great ending for the final season.
And what’s the bottom line for us? That if we have truly received the new birth through faith in Christ, we can be just as confident in defeat now as in victory, for there will one day come a “season” where all the Hendersons, Bierkos, and Logans will meet perfect and final and inescapable justice, and we will no longer count the minutes or hours or centuries, but see that some hard “24 hours” in our lives now will mean nothing in the scope of eternity.
This week a patient was in my office, struggling with her ongoing rejection by her family. “I’ve tried and tried to get past it, to understand why they treat me like this, but I can’t.” We talked briefly about how universal her feelings were, about how everyone has things they have trouble “getting past,” and how answers often don’t come. We talked about Job and his questions, and even after he encountered God directly he still didn’t have the answers he had originally asked.
After she left, I thought: Whose story is it? Who is the main character of the “story” we are “reading” as we live our lives? I think we all have a tendency to see our lives as a story, THE story, with us as the main character. We interpret the events of our lives as if the world indeed revolves around us.
The problem is that often the “script” doesn’t make much sense if we really are the main character. “Wait a second, that isn’t supposed to happen to the main character!” “That’s not how it is on TV!” We all have things in our lives, in our “story”, whether petty nuisances or heart-rending tragedy or just boring tedium, that we would not have written in, that makes no sense at all to happen to the main character. After all, nothing boring ever happens to Jack Bauer on 24. And lots of bad things happen, but they’re all exciting, dramatic bad things that he is able to heroically overcome in the space of 24 hours. If I’m the main character of the story, why isn’t my life like that?
The answer is one we would all acknowledge, but we need to be reminded of: It’s not my story. I’m not the main character. This universe is the story of God, of His joy, His battles, His creation, His sacrifice, and His victory. God didn’t tell Job the answer to why his story was written the way it was. God in effect told Job that he was reading the wrong story in the first place; that the story he was supposed to be reading and focusing on and cherishing was the “greatest story ever told,” the story of God.
When Christianity becomes something other than entering into and living out the story of God, it becomes something other than Christianity.
—Steven James in Story: Recapture The Mystery
Just in case there is anyone in the civilized world who didn’t watch last night, Jack is interrogating a terrorist collaborator and testily says:
I’m not for sale!
to which she replies:
Everyone is for sale.
The immediate reference, of course, is to “selling out”, going against one’s conscience for gain. “Every man has his price” is something that has been addressed in many venues of literature and media over the centuries. One look at the Bible gives us Matthew 16:26– “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
But looking closer, you don’t have to go against conscience or ethics to “sell out”—to exchange something precious to you, or even your own autonomy.
We are always in the business of exchange, giving something of ourselves, whether it be money, time, love, autonomy, in exchange for something that we value greater, something we desire. People exchange their time to employers every day to be paid money, for instance.
Thus, “selling out” is not necessarily bad. In fact, it can be a powerful motivator for good. In Desiring God, John Piper develops this concept extensively, that God is “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”—that if we “sell ourselves” to His service it is not for some disconnected, passionless, rewardless, noble motivation, but precisely for the rewards of being obedient, of seeing the Kingdom realized, of abiding in His love and boundless joy.
Hebrews 12:2 specifically says that Jesus “had his price”— He endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him.” Our problem, as Piper and Lewis and others have counseled us, is not that we are “not for sale”— it is that we sell ourselves short, that we sell ourselves for “mud pies” (as Lewis said), for trinkets like fame, power, money, sex, and success, when we can joyfully “sell all that we have” to buy the pearl of great price, the treasure of God’s love and joy. I rejoice in that I am for sale, and that I have sold myself to the highest bidder, and that I have been and will be richly rewarded for it.
“See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
“Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundred fold and inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:27,29 ESV)