TOPIC: When life stinks, Existence of God, Suffering
FILM: Tears of The Sun
“Tears of The Sun” is a powerful film and this suggested clip is meant to birth a thought-provoking discussion about crisis of belief or cynicism. The info about the Navy SEALs (below) can be referred to with the additional questions provided. Use this discussion to help bring students to a point in the discussion where they will talk honestly about their own cynicism or crisis of belief.
“Tears of The Sun” is the only current film our staff is aware of which graphically depicts persecution in a restricted nation and lends legitimacy to missionaries and faith itself. However, it is a serious film all the way through, and for some, a disturbing film that should be watched by only mature audiences, not only because of the abundance of bad language, but the graphic violence, however contextual. If you have spoken to your students (or adults in your church, for that matter) about persecution of Christians overseas, this would be a film to refer to. For this discussion, be sensitive if you have middle schoolers whose parents may object to this film based on the R rating and/or language and disturbing images, such as throats being slit, a rape scene, and other portrayals of victims of maiming (though none of those scenes are in this particular clip). Having said that, there are no gratuitous sex scenes or innuendos, which helps viewers stay focused on the plot.
Bruce Willis, commander of a force of Navy SEALs, is parachuted into a mission compound in Nigeria at a time that rebel forces have captured that country and are involved in ethnic (religious) cleansing. The SEALs’ task is to escort an American missionary doctor out of the country.
Under rebel rule, any religion is in jeopardy that is not the prescribed rebel's religion - including Christianity. There has been evidence that such slaughter has already taken place elsewhere. Despite that, a priest and two nuns at the mission decide to stay behind in order to be with their people and to comfort them while Willis and his team of Navy SEALs leave with the missionary doctor and those able to walk.
As they leave, the priest calls out, "Go with God."
The commander’s response is, "God already left Africa."
Cue the video of “Tears of The Sun” so your counter reads 0:00:00 when the Columbia studio logo first appears (lady with the torch). Fast forward to 0:16:22
when you see patients being guided to the area they will be escorted from. A nurse hands one of the missionaries a baby, telling her the mother has died. Stop tape at 0:18:05
as the SEAL team leaves to escort the missionary doctor and her patients out of the area.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
(These are really loaded questions. Allow your students to answer honestly, even if their answers aren’t theologically equal to scripture.)
- ASK A FEW: Is Willis' characters’ (the Navy SEAL commander) response “God already left Africa” justified in light of what he is seeing in Africa?
Let’s look up Job 2.9 & 10. Job lost land and children in tragic “acts of nature.” His wife cynically questions God.
v.9 His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
v.10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
(This might be a good time to point out the irony that some Christians blame the devil and some who aren’t Christians blame God when tragedy strikes. Life is life. Life happens. Often God, in his sovereignty allows circumstances to affect our lives. Sometimes Satan, in attempts to keep us down, orchestrates situations to twist our perception of God. Whether God, Satan, an act of nature, or the result of our own choices, life happens.)
- ASK A FEW: The commander’s response stems from a lack of evidence of God's presence in a country that is systematically destroying itself. Name a time in your life when you have questioned God's presence?
- ASK THE SAME FEW: Did you really think he abandoned you, or were you just angry or wanting someone to blame?
- ASK A FEW: Does God ever really leave us on our own?
ASK A FEW: How can we distinguish between what feels like God leaving us and the biblical truth that He refuses to?
ASK A FEW: How does it feel to know that when things are bad, someone will always be with us?
Read Deut. 31:6 (NIV) where Moses was assured by God to . . . “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
Read the following to your group:
A Christian who had come out of a difficult, questioning time in their life wrote in their journal…
“I’m convinced that when we are faced with difficulties, God’s goal for us is not always that we ‘get it’ but rather that we ‘get Him.’”
If you thought that God would reveal Himself to you personally, would you be willing to give up having all the answers to your “why’s”? Why or why not?
Encourage students that we don’t always understand what God allows to take place in this life, but that we can go through life cynically questioning God over every bad thing, never knowing Him, and never surrendering our lives to Him, only to die without Him. Or, we can go through life with God, questioning Him, and perhaps not getting all the answers we want, but getting to know Him better, and therefore, going through life with perspective and hope in Him, ultimately dying only to be with Him eternally.
Present the gospel if this is a group of primarily unchurched kids, offering an opportunity to surrender their lives to Christ.
If this is a group of primarily churched kids, have a time of you and them praying for those students who either shared or you know that they are currently questioning God’s presence in their lives.
By Rick Potter and Danette Matty