I was finally able to see “Bridge of Spies” in the theater this week with my family. We all enjoyed it, and my husband came right home to buy the book the movie is based on to get the rest of the details of this amazing story of a spy exchange during the Cold War. Tom Hanks is wonderful in the part of Jim Donovan, an honorable insurance lawyer who is first asked to defend a captured Russian spy and then asked to go into East Berlin – alone and with very limited resources – to negotiate a trade of the Russian spy for the pilot of an American spy plane shot down over Russia.
Not surprisingly, the story includes CIA agents who are more concerned about gathering information from the Russian spy than seeing him get a good defense in court. One agent tells Donovan that he needs to know everything the spy tells Donovan. When Donovan asserts attorney-client privilege, the agent responds by saying that the needs of the CIA are more important than such things. “There is no rule book here,” he says. Donovan laughs.
Of course there is a rule book, as Donovan makes clear. It’s called the Constitution. It is what defines us as a people – We the People of the United States. It’s what we’re all about – or what we should be about. There are times, of course, when we’re threatened from without, and we’re scared, and we need to defend ourselves, and at those times many people in the United States may be willing to sacrifice some of the liberties of the Constitution in exchange for security. But those are the very times when we need the Constitution the most, for to destroy it is to destroy who we are as a people.
Today, the threats are not all outside our borders. Judges, lawmakers, and even the President of the United States have been accused of ignoring the Constitution, or of reinterpreting it according to their own desires. The ones leveling the accusations may even claim that the Constitution must be interpreted exactly as intended when it was written. It’s difficult to imagine how that would work, though, since our nation, its people, and the world we live in are all vastly different than they were 230 years ago. Some interpretation is necessary, and I’m sure there will always be people pulling to the right and to the left to get their preferred interpretation followed. That’s okay – as long as they don’t rip the Constitution down the middle.
As a Christian, I have another rule book, one that I take even more seriously than the Constitution. It’s the Bible. It is what defines me as a Christian. Like the Constitution, it can be difficult to interpret and hard to apply in a culture that is vastly different from the one in which it was written. However, my first priority as a Christian should be to figure out how to apply it to my life – how to live by its rules, its life-lessons, and its “original intent.”
I know of some Christians who aren’t too concerned about the original intent of the Bible. For them, it’s enough to look at the life-lessons in the book and apply them in a way that seems appropriate in our modern (or should I say ‘postmodern’) culture. They ask, “How does this speak to me today?” instead of “What did this mean when it was written so long ago?”
As a US Citizen, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a former federal prosecutor, I hold the US Constitution in high esteem, but I remember that it was written in a different time by men who were wise but not all-knowing. The Bible, on the other hand, was written under the direction of one who is all-knowing and who still lives with us today to help us correctly interpret and apply his words. Remember that, the next time you delve into his rule book.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
What is my mission as an author? It's a tough question, but I believe the goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they really believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.