On Saturday, I went to see The Martian with my family. It’s a great movie about a man who is left behind when an emergency forces a NASA team to evacuate their post on Mars. The team of two women and four men had been the first humans to reach Mars, but when a severe storm threatened their only means to return home they were forced to leave behind one of the men, Mark Watney, who was presumed to have been killed in the storm. Of course, Watney was not dead, and the rest of the movie is about his attempts to survive alone on a hostile planet while NASA, the rest of his crew, and the whole world try to find a way to bring him home.
The movie asks the question, what is the value of one human life? Should hundreds of people work around the clock to try to save one man? Should millions of dollars be spent on rockets and supplies to be sent to Mars for one man? Should the five other crew members, almost home again, risk their own lives to go back for one man? The underlying message of the movie is that every human life matters, no matter how far away or how great the odds are against being able to save that life. Watching the movie, I felt the strong pull of optimism and hope that allowed so many to risk so much to try and save one stranded man.
It seems to be part of our DNA, our very humanity, to value life – not only our own lives, or the lives of our family and friends, but the lives of strangers who make up the great community of human life on earth. The morning news today reinforced that idea, as I listened to stories of fire and rescue teams working tirelessly and risking their lives to save people caught in the severe floods in South Carolina. In other stories, a large team of volunteers searched throughout the weekend to find a toddler who had wandered away from her home in Ohio while aircrews scored the Bermuda Triangle looking for survivors of a sunken cargo ship.
Humans are fickle, though, and terribly inconsistent. While we gladly see tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars used to rescue individuals endangered by sudden disasters, we can casually look away from the thousands of children dying from hunger each and every day, the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn countries with little more than the clothes on their backs, and the millions of people trapped in poverty all around the globe. We can close our borders, close our checkbooks, and close our eyes when people in need look to look to us and say, “Don’t our lives matter, too?”
Watching The Martian this weekend, I thought about how much Jesus loved us that he would leave Heaven, live the life of a wandering preacher, suffer hatred, scorn, betrayal, and even death to offer us eternal life. He taught us the value of the individual when he said, “Wouldn’t you leave your ninety-nine sheep to go find one who went astray?” and “Wouldn’t you search without rest to find one of ten coins which was lost?” and “Wouldn’t you rejoice and celebrate when one lost son comes home?” (Luke 15)
Humans are made in the image of God, and like God we see value and importance in each individual human life. But we also deal with sin and its consequences every day, and we are apt to be selfish, fearful, indecisive, and inconsistent in the way we deal with other people. So go see The Martian and ask yourself, “What am I willing to do to save the life of just one human?” Then go and do it!
What is my mission as an author? The goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.