Patriot, The (Our Actions)
Main Point of Discussion: We must not merely claim to follow Christ, but put action behind our words.
The Movie Clip: “Will you stop at words?”
In The Patriot, Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a father who after coming home a hero from the French and Indian conflict has decided to live a peaceful life with his family, giving up fighting forever. However, when the fighting between the colonies and the British army draws nearer to his home and one of his sons is killed, he quickly builds a militia to fight against the British. The movie is very well-written and has phenomenal acting. Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, and a couple other actors you’ll recognize make the movie—although quite violent and bloody in the battle sequences—one that can be watched over and over. Although I’d never show this movie in youth group, many parents won’t have any problems showing it to their teenagers.
Introducing the Clip:
Have you ever had a friend say that they would do something but ended up not doing it? Have you ever heard someone say that they were friends with someone but later on they were mean to them or talked badly about them behind their backs? Aren’t you tired of people like that, who talk one way but act another? Tonight we’re going to talk about just that, about those of us who talk a good game, but sometimes lack action to back it up.
But first we’re going to watch a scene from a movie called The Patriot. The movie is about the Revolutionary War in the 1700s. In the movie, the British army is attacking the American armies, trying to keep them under the rule of England. If the Americans can win the war, they’ll have their freedom. In the scene we’re going to watch today, a guy named Gabriel Martin (Heath Ledger), Benjamin Martin’s son, walks into a church and interrupts a church service to recruit men for the militia (which is basically a small group of guys who aren’t soldiers but want to fight anyway). At first, the reverend and some of the men in the congregation object. But after one of the town’s own residents, a girl named Anne, speaks up about words and actions, several men including the reverend stand up to join the fight against the British army. The scene is a very powerful illustration of leadership and inspiration, as well as a beautiful picture of being called to action when until now there has only been boasting. Listen to what happens when the people in the scene are asked to put their actions to their words and join the militia.
BEGIN CLIP AT 57:58, in the middle of Chapter 11.
(GABRIEL walks into the church in the middle of a church service. After the congregation is finished singing hymns and sits down, he interrupts the meeting.)
GABRIEL: Reverend, with your permission, I’d like to make an announcement.
REVEREND: Young man, this is a house of God.
GABRIEL: I understand that, Reverend. I apologize. (He begins addressing the crowd.) The South Carolina Militia is being called up. I’m here to enlist every man willing.
REVEREND: Son, we are here to pray for the souls of those men hanging outside.
GABRIEL: Yes, pray for them. But honor them by taking up arms with us.
HARDWICK: And bring more suffering to this town?
DAN SCOTT: If King George can hang those men, he can hang any one of us.
ANNE: Dan Scott, barely a week ago you railed for two hours about independence. And Mr. Hardwick, how many times have I heard you speak of freedom at my father’s table? Half the men in this church, including you, Father, and you, Reverend, are as ardent patriots as I. Will you now, when you are needed most, stop at only words? Is that the sort of men you are? (GABRIEL says nothing but remains quiet, smiling to himself at what ANNE has just said.) I ask only that you act upon the beliefs of which you have so strongly spoken, and in which you so strongly believe.
GABRIEL: Who’s with us?
(Men all over the room begin standing, including DAN SCOTT.)
END CLIP AT 60 minutes and 55 seconds.
This scene sure does say a lot, doesn’t it? Did you get chills when the men started standing up and deciding to put their words into action, even if that meant they’d be risking their lives going to war? You know, it’s a simple thing when someone actually does what they say they’ll do, but it’s also a powerful thing. Imagine that, huh? Imagine people who don’t just boast about what they’ll do or how passionate they are about something, but they actually back up their beliefs with action. Imagine what that would look like.
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.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Before we begin, let’s go around the circle. Share your name and tell us the answer to this question, “If you could live in any time period you wanted to, when would it be, and why?”
- ASK A FEW: Without telling us the person’s name, can you tell us about someone that you’ve heard/observed recently, who said they’d do one thing, but then they did something else?
- ASK A FEW: How does it make you feel when someone does this? Why?
- ASK A FEW: In general, what are some ways that people do this at your school or in your home? What about people from church?
- ASK A FEW: Why do you think that it is important for your actions to match your words?
The Bible calls us to do exactly this. We are told to not just talk about who we serve, but actually do it. In fact, it goes on to say that we are not to just know what the Bible says or even hear what God says to us; we’re supposed to actually do it. Listen to what James tells us about actually doing what we’re learning from Christ:
Read the following passage:
James 1:22-25 (NLT)
And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don't obey, you are only fooling yourself.  For if you just listen and don't obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you keep looking steadily into God's perfect law—the law that sets you free—and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
Sadly enough, the problem with many people who believe in Jesus isn’t only about not following what the Bible says. It goes even deeper than this. Listen to what Jesus says about what our actions show.
Read the following passage:
Matthew 7:17-20 (NLT)
A healthy tree produces good fruit, and an unhealthy tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced.
In the scene we saw, it took a girl from that town to point out the truth to the men in the church. If she hadn’t been there, they probably never would have ended up standing to fight. Unfortunately, we sometimes need moments like this, when we need our weaknesses pointed out at us. These are the moments when we actually get to decide that now is the time to stop talking about it and actually do it. Let this moment be that moment for you. If you tell people you worship God, you need to show it by your actions. In the book of James, he tells us that “faith without actions is dead.” If we can’t back up our boasting with simple action, then maybe we need to be reexamining who we actually are worshiping. If you struggle with not walking the walk, then let today be your day. Before we dismiss for the evening/day, let me pray for you all.
Close in Prayer. (Pray for your students: that their actions will be aligned with their words and that they may live a life in accordance with what they say.)
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.