Nominated for an Oscar as Best Motion Picture of the Year…in fact, nominated for 48 awards world-wide and winner of a dozen, Captain Phillips is the riveting (nearly true) story of the 2009 hijacking of Captain Richard Phillips and his crew on the Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. Although it’s rated PG-13, 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.0 on IMDb, I wouldn’t show it to kids because it’s shocking and graphic, like The Impossible (also based on a harrowing true story). But, I was glad I saw it, because it portrayed tribulation, endurance, heroism, and good overcoming evil in the end…and it wasn’t just fiction, it was based on real-live facts that challenged me. I want to be brave and faithful when under attack too!
Most of the events in the story were true, although the movie made Richard Phillips into more of a hero that he really was. Apparently he did not offer his own life to save his shipmates, nor did he voluntarily join the pirates to protect his men: he was a helpless hostage. In some ways, the most heroic act by any of the sailors was that of Chief Engineer, Mike Perry, who wrestled with Muse in the dark engine room and overcame him with only a pocket knife.
As Captain Phillips shared in a press conference after returning safely to America, the true heroes were the U.S. Navy SEALs. I won’t spoil the story by giving away the ending, but I was touched by Captain Phillips’ humility as he admitted his own inability to save his ship and honored the U.S. military, especially our incredible Navy SEALs, for their bravery in accomplishing “the impossible.”
Just two days ago, the U.S. Navy SEALs performed another “impossible” act of patriotism by taking control of an oil tanker near Cyprus that was hijacked earlier this month by three armed Libyans. After the Libyan and Cypriot governments requested U.S. assistance, a team of SEALs attached to the Special Operations Command Europe, boarded the oil tanker, Morning Glory, and rescued it during the middle of the night near Cypress on March 17…while most the rest of us here in the U.S. were preparing for a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. In recounting the stunning victory, I read that the SEALs pulled off “another Captain Phillips.” GREAT WORK, SEALs, and God bless them for their selfless devotion to saving others!
May I conclude by reminding us all that there is someone even more self-sacrificing than Richard Phillips ever tried to be or the Navy SEALs are? Like Captain Phillips, each of us has been “hijacked” in a sense by Satan and forced to abandon our ship. We are not able to save ourselves or those we love. Jesus, however, is the true captain…not only of us individually, but of every person who has ever lived. He willingly surrendered his life to the abuse of Satan, suffered a horrible death as payment for our sins, and rose again in victory…not only for himself, but also so that we can be freed. Better even than the incredible Navy SEALs, Christ not only restores our lives, he gives us eternal life as a free gift to any who will put their faith and hope in Him. If you’ve never trusted Jesus to rescue you, will you let him pull a “Captain Phillips” in your life?
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins” 1 John 4:10.