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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Free at Last


In the 1986 film The Mission, Robert De Niro plays Rodrigo Mendoza – a mercenary, slave trader, and murderer in 1750 South America.

 

Mendoza has brutalized the Guarani people who live high above the waterfalls that border Argentina and Paraguay. 

 

They have long wanted to get their hands on him.

 

Suddenly they get the opportunity.

 

In a fit of jealous rage, Mendoza has killed his younger half-brother in a duel.  His life begins to disintegrate. 

 

Desperate and despondent, he accepts the challenge of Father Gabriel, a Jesuit missionary who works with the Guarani, to give his heart to God.

 

Mendoza believes he will find peace only if he undertakes an outrageous act of penance.  He will join the missionaries as they make the perilous climb alongside the waterfalls.  But he will do it while dragging an enormous bundle of heavy armor – his own armor and sword.  Then he will present himself, submissively, to the very people he has so grievously wronged. 

 

This has all the earmarks of suicide.

 

Mendoza survives the climb.  He finally arrives, half-dead from exhaustion, at the place where the Guarani warriors have gathered.    

 

In the remarkable scene that follows, one of the warriors grabs a knife and holds it to his throat.

 

As the missionaries hold their collective breath, the members of the tribe – the people to whom they have been preaching the way of Christ – debate what ought to happen next.

 

The leader barks a command.  The warrior slices with his knife.  Mendoza’s life comes to an end.

 

His old life, that is.

 

The knife cuts through the thick rope that binds him to the heavy burden that he has just dragged up the mountain.  The tribesman pushes it over the cliff and into the river, where it vanishes.

 

For Rodrigo Mendoza, it’s too much to take in.

 

He dissolves into tears of gratitude and amazement at the grace he has received.  From this moment on, he is a new man.

 

What makes God’s grace so amazing is that God is able and willing to separate us from our old lives – lives which are too heavy a burden for any of us to bear.

 

What’s almost as miraculous is that God sometimes uses other people to help set someone free.

 

And you never know: 

 

Today, the very person that God will use to release a fellow struggler from a crippling burden just might be you.  

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Would you like to explore previous reflections, and learn more about this ministry?  Check out glennsreflections.com.

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