by Lynette Woods
A few weeks ago we were watching an old movie, "Bridge on the River Kwai", when Father began to speak to me through it and then I wished I'd been paying a bit more attention to the movie! For those who are not familiar with the story, it is based on a true incident from World War 2. British, Australian and American soldiers were held as Prisoners of War in a Japanese camp in Burma and the prisoners worked for the Japanese by building a railway bridge across the river Kwai. The full story can be read online here: http://www.filmsite.org/bridge.html
The British Colonel Nicholson refused to allow his officers to do manual labour for the enemy, citing the Geneva convention and immediately entered a battle with the Japanese Colonel Saito. Nicholson was tortured and punished but wouldn't give in and won a major victory over the Colonel Saito after much endurance, pain and agony. The soldiers were all proud of him and cheered when Saito finally gave in and released Nicholson from solitary confinement. But Colonel Nicholson was still a POW and it seemed that after that major victory, the victory went to his head and instead of being in defiance of the enemy, he instead began to cooperate with the enemy. He told Colonel Saito how much better he could build the bridge and how his soldiers would listen to him so Colonel Saito put him in charge of the building project and the British Colonel helped the Japanese and worked for them to prove a point: that the British could work hard and make something better than the Japanese - which I guess you could say was pride!
The British Colonel actually became a harder taskmaster than the enemy had ever been; he not only had his officers working (in spite of the agony he'd endured so they wouldn't have to work!), but also put sick patients from the hospital to work also. He HAD to have his structure finished within the timeframe for the sake of his pride. The prisoners had so much respect for him because of what he'd endured, that they willingly worked and did a great job... for the enemy. You could say that their love and respect for their leader blinded them. They thought they were working for Colonel Nicholson but they were really working for the enemy. The only person in the film that questioned what the British Colonel was doing was the British Doctor, Clipton. He queried whether the Colonel should be helping the enemy so much and each time the Colonel just brushed him aside and said "You don't understand the army".
The bridge was finished on schedule much to the delight of the British and the Japanese Colonels. But a few weeks before completion, an American soldier escaped from the camp and got to the coast. The British army picked him up and told him they were sending him straight back, along with demolition experts, to blow up the bridge they'd just built, as the bridge was strategic and would enable the enemy to transport men and goods across the river Kwai.
This team of soldiers got to the place of
the bridge on time, they were to blow it up on a
certain day for maximum impact: the first day of its
use when it would have a trainload of army personnel
crossing the river. They got everything in place at
night but woke the next morning to discover that
during the night the river level had dropped and
their wires were now visible in the water and on the
sand bank, but they could do nothing about it in
daylight because the bridge was being guarded and
they would be seen. Colonel Nicholson strolled
across the bridge with the Japanese Colonel while
waiting for the train, but the British Colonel sees
something unusual at the base of the bridge and
points it out to the Japanese Colonel... so they
both go down under the bridge to take a closer look.
Nicholson sees the wire leading to the explosives
and follows it to where the British soldier is
hiding, waiting for the train to arrive so he can
push the plunger and blow up the bridge along with
the train. The two British men fight each other and
the soldier yells at Nicholson that he is British
and doing this for the British army but the Colonel
doesn't seem to comprehend this fact; all he seems
to be thinking of is protecting "his" bridge, his
construction, his structure. The soldier dies and
one of the other soldiers on the demolition team
sees that Nicholson is going to sabotage the whole
thing so they shoot him. As Colonel Nicholson is
dying he seems to finally realize what's happened,
and his last words on the movie are "WHAT have I
done???" as he falls onto the plunger and the bridge
is blown up just as the train is going over it. The
British Colonel died along with the British soldiers
he exposed and who were trying to blow up the
The soldiers who were trying to blow up the man-made structure were prevented and betrayed by one of their own men: the colonel who "owned" the structure because he'd overseen the whole building project. He had basically sided with the enemy without realizing it because ambition and pride had blinded him. At one point Colonel Nicholson said that the prisoners MUST work; they must be kept busy and must have a purpose and something to work on, because it was good discipline and good for their morale. There is a correlation to this in the Bible. When the children of Israel began to seriously consider leaving Egypt, the enemy's response was to double their workload; to get them so busy and so occupied that they wouldn't have either the time or the energy to consider escaping. "Forget about escaping, just work..." Colonel Nicholson got tricked into the do-ing thing to the point that he became utterly blind; so blind that he did not want his own army to blow up his project, the result of all his hard work, even though what he'd made would help the enemy! Whose side was he on?
While we are clearly not advocating blowing up things men have built, we are prepared to expose and reveal those religious, self-righteous mindsets which we all need to have blown away, because these mindsets limit us and others and can indeed aid the enemy in his work. "For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical, but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, we refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ".
That is not easy and can be a real battle. It requires us to let go of our opinions, mindsets and traditions and to stop trying to be God in our own lives, and in the lives of others. Even the people in the days when Jesus was on earth were told to stop their own do-ing and instead allow Him to produce the Bread of Life in their lives: "Stop toiling and doing and producing for the food that perishes and decomposes, but strive and work and produce rather for the food which endures unto life eternal; the Son of Man will GIVE you that, for God the Father has authorized and certified Him and put His seal of endorsement upon Him." But the people, like us, still didn't get it. They felt there MUST be something they could do. It is a very hard lesson for us to learn that none of our deeds or works are of any value when initiated and maintained by us: "They then said, What are we to do, that we may be working the works of God? [What are we to do to carry out what God requires?] Jesus replied, This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger]." As simple as that sounds, that can be very hard work and a real battleground for us!
We cannot believe and trust and have faith in Him while we are believing, trusting and having faith in ourselves; instead we learn that we desperately need Jesus Himself to produce and be Faith in us and for us. "One great hindrance to faith is lack of need. If God blesses you with need He will bless you with faith, and faith works best in really desperate need... He deals with the impossible cases. The trouble is that when God gives us a chance to exercise faith, you and I so often cast it aside. There is little sense in believing if at the same time you provide yourself with an alternative way out! Faith works most convincingly when there is none." (Watchman Nee, A Table in the Wilderness).
While many of us may see the parallels of religion with being in bondage, there are other bondages that we may still need freedom from including self-righteousness and bondage to Self. Even when we have been freed from religion, our own laws and opinions can still blind and bind us just as much as religion because we can very quickly and easily make a whole new set of laws which we feel we must fulfil in order to please God. Our freedom and liberty are very, very precious. They are also very, very costly. True freedom can be quite frightening because we must relinquish control in order to be free. Control makes us feel secure. Rules, regulations and laws make us think we are doing fine when all along, Self is still on the throne of our lives. Simply trusting God can initially make us feel very uncomfortable and insecure because we must truly trust Another...
Escape from the enemy's camp was not encouraged by the British Colonel in the movie. In their welcome speech, the newly arrived POW's were told: "A word to you about escape. There is no barbed wire, no stockade, no watchtower. They are not necessary. We are an island in the jungle. Escape is impossible. You would die." Our enemy often feeds us the exact same lie: that we cannot survive by trusting God alone! "If you no longer follow these rules and do this or that and no longer go here or there, you will not get fed, you will be alone, you will not be protected. Escape is impossible. You would die." And the result of this lie is that many people are limited and bound by fear instead of being released to live by faith in trusting a Father Who is more than able to take care of His own children!
A commentary on the movie states:
Are we slaves, prisoners of war, or soldiers? Slaves work for others because of duty and obligation; they have no choice. Prisoners are in bondage and also have no freedom of choice. Soldiers choose to join an army (usually) and submit to training for battle and ultimately surrender their life for their king and country. They are bound not by duty but by love for their country and king. We too are bound by Love; love for our Country Above and for our King and His kingdom! May He give us the Grace and Ability to escape the many things which bind and blind us by opening the eyes of our hearts to see ourselves for what we are, and to see Him as All that He is!
Let us then go forth from all that would prevent us to Him outside the camp, bearing the contempt and abuse and shame with Him. For here we have no permanent city, but we are looking for the one which is to come. Heb 13:13,14