Lessons from Kingdom of Heaven

Last night I watched the movie Kingdom of Heaven with my dad. You know, the movie where Orlando Bloom is a blacksmith who becomes a knight during the Crusades and ends up as the defender of Jerusalem. It’s one of my favorite movies. Not because Liam Neeson plays Godfrey de Ibelin, the baron who once fought for two days with an arrow in his [edit in case of sensitive eyes]. Or because the love story between Sibylla (played by the beautiful Eva Green) and Balian de Ibelin (Orlando Bloom). Though those are some of the interesting parts of the movie.

The reason I love this movie so much is the fact that it shows us the struggle of faith, the doubt in religion, and the quest to bring good into the world, to be ones best at all times, even when that means personal sacrifice.

If you have not seen the movie, go watch it. There may be some spoilers and I do not want to be held responsible for ruining anything for anybody. I know the movie has been out for 10 years, but you never know if people have seen it or not.

The movie takes place in the Holy Land during a time of uncertainty, as Saladin and the Saracen army threaten the Kingdom of Jerusalem. On top of this, the Templar Knights, led by Guy de Lusignan, are trying to provoke a war by slaughtering Muslims left and right.

A king may move a man, a father may claim a son, but that man can also move for himself, and only then does that man truly begin his own game. Remember that howsoever you are played or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power. When you stand before God, you cannot say, “But I was told by others to do thus,” or that virtue was not convenient at that time. This will not suffice. Remember that.
– King Baldwin IV

King Baldwin, the leper king of Jerusalem, reminds Balian on their first meeting that a man’s actions are his and his alone. It is a reminder that every man is responsible for making the choice to follow the demands of those who claim to rule us or the commands of our Father above, Abba.

Each one of us bears this same responsibility. Do we follow the path that society tries to force us down, or do we seek out the stepping stones that God has put before our feet to find the journey stretching out before us? This is a choice that we must answer.

God has called each of us to be His hands and feet. To take up the weapons of love and become warriors in His name.

Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong. That is your oath.
– Godfrey de Ibelin

That is the oath Balian took to become a knight. A slap to the face was so that he would remember it.

This is an oath that we should all live by. To love through our actions. To show our faith through protecting those around us. Even those that do not believe the same things we do. To stand when everyone else runs to hide behind the walls of protection. To ride out against a foe that outnumbers us to give others the chance to escape to safety.

Balian takes this oath to heart and tries to bring good wherever he goes. And though he struggles with his faith, he succeeds in building a better world for those under his protection.

At one point, after spending the night listening for God on the hill where Christ was crucified, he admits to his fathers friend, a Hospitaler who remains unnamed throughout the move, that he has lost Religion, that God has abandoned him.

I put no stock in religion. By the word religion, I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and of goodness. What God desires is here (pointing at his head) and here (placing a hand over his heart) and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man – or not.
– Hospitaler

Every time I hear this quote, I smile. These words were something that I struggled to discover for some time. They echo in my heart, telling us that if we do not live out our faith every single day, we do not truly know the desires of God. Religion has brought some of the greatest love to the world, but through the actions of men and women who have warped it into an abomination, it has also been used to pour out hatred, violence, and death.

Religion has been warped to spread war, but if we truly want to live the lives that God calls us to live, we will find ourselves fighting for love. And peace.

The movie ends with the siege and fall of Jerusalem, an epic battle of wills and strategy. After Balian threatens to tear down every religious building, temple, and holy place, Saladin responds stating that this might be for the best. He then goes to remind Balian that the city is filled with innocent women and children, granting them safe passage back to Christian lands in exchange for the city. With the safety of those under his protection secured, Balian surrenders the city.

As they depart, they share the following words:

And peace be with you

The entire move reminds me that we (Christians) are not so much different than those who are of differing faiths. As Balian and his father approach Messina, we hear a priest shouting “To Kill an Infidel is not murder! It is the path to heaven!” As my dad heard this, he turned to me and stated that his was the same rallying cry we still hear in the Holy Land. And when Balian spots a number of Muslims praying, he asks what their prayers mean:

“Subhana Rabbi’l Adhim.” Praise be to God. It is proper to praise him.

To which, Balian states: Sounds like our prayers.

I don’t believe we are all that different. That we are capable of living together in peace. That the lines drawn by religion can be erased through the love of faith. And that our actions prove stronger than our words.

One of my favorite characters in the movie is Nasir, a man we assume is a servant, but is revealed to be a leader of the Saracens with Saladin. After Balian spares his life, he returns the favor. After seeing the righteous actions of Balian as he fought to protect innocent citizens caught out in the open before the Saracen army and the defense of Jerusalem, Nasir returns a horse to Balian and then asks him a final question before the movie comes to a close:

… and if God does not love you, how could you have done the things you have done?

And I’ll leave it there.

God Bless and PEACE


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