Please note: The following text contains spoilers. Viewer discretion is also advised – this film contains intense, graphic sequences of war violence.
“De Oppresso Liber”, “Free the Oppressed”
I must confess, Christian films aren’t my idea of a good time. Whilst I never stand in direct opposition to the ever-growing behemoth that is the Christian film industry, I just can’t sit through or subject others to sit through, bad Christian films. And sadly, the bad more than often outnumber the good. So, when Free Burma Rangers was recommended to me by a friend, I almost immediately cast it aside. That is, until I saw the trailer, complete with its pulse-pounding score, explosive archival footage and a distinctly Gospel-centric message of hope: “We’re not going to leave you - because you count”.
I sat back in shock, unlocked my phone and searched for where it was available to rent, only to discover it was listed solely on Amazon, for £20. But even with a hefty price tag such as this, don’t let it dissuade you from watching this film – not only is it an essential tool for evangelism, but this true story of the Eubank family is guaranteed to encourage you to pray for personal growth in compassion, unlike any other film before it.
In essence, Free Burma Rangers is a documentary, comprised of interviews and videoed first-hand accounts of activities from within war zones, in which Christian missionaries Dave & Karen Eubank (and their three young children), seek to display their faith in action, by tending to the plight of the helpless, who are caught up in conflict. With the majority of its footage taken from the charity’s own archive, Free Burma Rangers gives audiences unprecedented access to view moments of searing loss, but also the lifesaving and life-changing care and attention, given to those who have been treated as the least.
- Love One Another
- Unite for Freedom, Justice, and Peace
- Forgive and do not hate each other
- Pray with faith
- Act with Courage
- Never Surrender
In this way, the work displayed throughout FBR embodies all of these principles and more. Even in the aftermath of a brutal attack upon defenceless women, at the hands of the Burma army, we watch as Dave forgives them, despite openly acknowledging that he wishes to seek vengeance, and wrestles with his decision. But it’s in knowing that he is called to “forgive one another, as God has forgiven” him “through Christ” (Ephesians 4:32, GNT), that Dave presses on in the work that he was originally called to do – for “vengeance is mine”, says the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35, NRSV). Such heart-rending vulnerability not only gives us an indication of the hardships that FBR face on a regular basis, but it furthers one of the film’s many points: that despite knowing God personally, we will face many hardships, but He is more than able to see us through each and every one.
The film’s central message, however, is perhaps wrapped up in the motto of the United States Army Special Forces (in which David formerly served), later adopted by the ministry, which comes closest to making a biblical comparison: “De Oppresso Liber”, “Free the Oppressed”. Whilst some argue that the motto most resembles a quote from St. Augustine, I feel that it links much more closely with the writings of the prophet Isaiah:
defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
(Isaiah 1:17, NRSV)
And in a sense, Jesus was sent just as the Eubanks were – called to go into a place of brokenness and hopelessness, to rescue the oppressed. How do we know this? Well, whilst in Nazareth, Luke’s Gospel account informs us that Jesus visited the synagogue, and read from the book of Isaiah, in which He states the following:
(Luke 4:18, NRSV)
For the Bible teaches that “everyone has sinned” (Romans 3:23, NLT) and ultimately done wrong in God’s sight. Every one of us “fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23) and therefore deserve to receive the “payment for sin (which) is death” (Romans 6:23, ICB), in accordance with God’s law. We deserve nothing more than to receive eternal death in Hell for our sin – for no matter what we do, we cannot free ourselves of our mistakes and their effects on our lives. But God, in His great love for the world is merciful, and “gives…the free gift of life forever” (Romans 6:23, ICB) to those who ask for forgiveness from their sin, turn away from their old lives and come to faith in God. For He loves us and wants for us to live with Him for all eternity, which is why it is written that He “does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9, NLT). God actually chose to make a way for us to be granted mercy, forgiveness and freedom from our sin, through Jesus Christ – God’s one and only Son who was given as the “…offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NLT).
FBR therefore serves a dual purpose: whilst it encourages Christians to tend to the immediate needs of the oppressed, I believe it also helps to better understand and visualise something of Jesus’ commitment to saving all who were oppressed by an affliction of the soul - regardless of the personal cost. FBR therefore embodies that self-same mercy and compassion, so it is my prayer that many Christians would not only see that but receive it and point people to their need for liberation from an oppression of the soul.
Why not prayerfully invite a friend or family member who doesn’t yet know Jesus, to watch Free Burma Rangers for themselves? Use the film’s themes to ask them what they thought of the film, if they spotted any links to Christianity and what they might think of the Gospel’s response to this subject.
If you feel able to, ask them what they think about Dave and Karen’s commitment to sharing the Gospel and freeing the oppressed, despite facing such dangers? What do they think about God wanting to liberate us, by sending His Son into our broken world, despite knowing the cost, in order for us to be saved? Later, if they're open to hearing it, take an opportunity to share the hope of the Gospel message with them.
Prior to watching the film for yourself, however, take a moment to pray that God would speak to you through the film. If you feel comfortable, pray this prayer over all of your future, film-watching experiences:
Dear Lord, As I watch this film, I ask that you would be present here with me. Highlight to me anything within it that is honourable, anything that can be used in conversation for your Kingdom purposes. Amen.
Free Burma Rangers is available to rent through Amazon Prime Video