Jump directly to the content

Already a subscriber?

Home > Issues > 2004 > Fall > The Good Fight
Article Preview. Log in or subscribe now.

General Maximus comes to Rome dirty and shackled. This is not the way it's supposed to be. Where's Rome's legendary pageantry to greet one of her war heroes—the heraldry, the burnished armor, the laurel crown? Where's the honor due him?

Maximus comes a slave.

That's the premise of the movie Gladiator. Through a maze of events, Maximus goes from celebrated warrior, favorite of one emperor, to despised traitor, nemesis of another. He becomes a fugitive, then caged slave, then unvanquished gladiator. His growing fame in the arena brings him to the sport's pinnacle: Rome's magnificent Coliseum to face her elite warriors.

The games open with a re-enactment of the battle of Carthage. The gladiators, all foot soldiers, are cast as the hapless Carthaginians. It is a stage for slaughter. They are marched out a dark passageway into brilliant sunlight and met with a roar of bloodlust.

Maximus, their leader, shouts to his men: "Stay together." He assembles them in a tight circle in the center of the arena: back-to-back, shields aloft, spears outward. Again he shouts, "Whatever comes out that gate, stay together."

What comes out that gate is swift and sleek and full of terror. Chariot upon chariot thunder forth. War horses pull, with deadly agility and earthshaking strength, wagons driven by master charioteers. Amazonian warrior princesses ride behind and with deadly precision hurl spears and volley arrows. One gladiator strays from the circle, ignoring Maximus's order, and is cut down. Maximus shouts once more: "Stay together!"

The instinct to scatter is strong. But Maximus exerts his authority, and they resist that impulse. The chariots circle, closer, closer, closer. Spears and arrows rain down on the men's wood shields. The chariots are about to cinch the knot. Right then Maximus shouts, "Now!"

The gladiators attack, and decimate the Romans. Commodus, the evil emperor, caustically remarks to the games organizer: "My memory of Roman history is rusty, but didn't we beat Carthage the first time?"

Whatever comes out that gate, stay together.

That echoes what Jesus prayed for us: "May they be brought to complete unity" (John 17:23). And he promises that the gates of hell will not overcome his church.

Whatever comes out that gate, stay together.

We know that. We long for it. We pray for it.

And we miss it, almost every time. The instinct to scatter is strong. Not only that, but what's worse, we often turn our weapons inward. "If you keep on biting and devouring each other," Paul warns, "watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (Gal. 5:15).

Why are Christians so fractious? In 15 years as a pastor, I've seen a lot, and heard more: deacons in fisticuffs, screaming matches at business meetings, gossip-mongering that borders on lynching.

I know a church once teeming with 400 joyful members, feisty and plucky as Gimli. In less than six months they dwindled to a few bedraggled survivors, skittish and peevish as Gollum. Years later, they've still not recovered. The issue? ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

Mark Buchanan is pastor of New Life Community Baptist Church in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada.

Related Topics:ConflictHumilityJoySpiritual DisciplinesUnity
From Issue:Keeping Conflict Healthy, Fall 2004 | Posted: October 1, 2004

Also in this Issue: Fall 2004

Why Serious Preachers Use HumorSubscriber Access Only

Plus: Top 25 Worship Songs

Back-seat FighterSubscriber Access Only

Would I ever learn to keep my comments about church antagonists to myself?

The Conversation You DreadSubscriber Access Only

A nasty outburst led to a more constructive approach for those difficult confrontations.

Body PoliticsSubscriber Access Only

Amid political tensions, when is a pastor to speak out and when to refrain?

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating: Not rated

No comments

Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Reader's Pick
The Gift of Volunteers

The Gift of Volunteers

Operation Christmas Child’s Randy Riddle on growing and cultivating your volunteers.
Sister Sites
Leading the Elder BoardBuilding Church Leaders

Leading the Elder Board