On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we take the high road to 13th Century Scotland and look for Christian themes in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. What can we make of William Wallace being discipled by his uncle? Is this what makes him a better encourager like Barnabas? All that and more in 3…2…1!
Braveheart and Christian Discipleship
After the death of William’s father and brother, his mysterious and imposing uncle Argyle comes to take him. We discover that Argyle is a good Christian demonstrating “pure and undefiled religion” as described by the Lord’s brother, James (Jas 1:27). William doesn’t want to leave his home, but he must. His life has changed, and his uncle – in the pursuit of doing what we are called as Christians to do – will make a disciple of young William Wallace. He will teach him, train him, and apprentice him.
William even has a vision of his dead father who – in a moment of reanimation – gives his son a gift that will last his entire life, and on into eternity: the simple words, “Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.”
At a traditional Scottish wake – or memorial – young Wallace is stirred to take up his uncle’s sword, preparing for battle. But Argyle tells him that before he takes up that sword he must prepare his mind and his heart. This is reminiscent of his father telling him that it is “Our wits that make us men.”
We see this in action when William returns home after many years and is challenged to a test by Hamish to see who is the better man. William forfeits with a simple, “You win.” His apprenticeship, his discipleship under the loving care of his uncle Argyle taught him that this freedom – that his heart – he has been given gives him the courage to seek to live peaceably with all people (Rom 12:18).
Paul says it best in his letter to the Philippians:
Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example. (3:17 NET)
What brought William Wallace back home after so many years of being discipled to perfection was in order to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples. He followed his uncle’s example, and other men then follow Wallace.
Braveheart and the Gift of Encouragement
Robert the Bruce is the Scottish prince in line to inherit the crown from his ailing Noble father. The problem is that his father sympathizes with the English and will pour out Scottish blood in order to greedily keep his power. Thankfully, Robert is gravitating toward the “freedom” from English rule and supplementation that’s killing Scotland. The only thing is that, at first, he’s too scared to initiate any change himself.
That is, until he is inspired by this folk hero named William Wallace, who “kills men by the hundreds” and could “consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his…” well, you get it. When Robert first tries to quench William’s fire, he is shut down immediately. Later on, Robert comes to William and confesses that he’s afraid of what might happen if he takes the rebellious steps like William, the latter again encourages the former to good works.
As the story then resolves, Robert has been spurred by William so much so that when he is about to make a deal with English, he has a sudden but poetic change of heart because of William’s example. Just as Robert had been spurred by William, he now spurs the Scotsmen into a final battle that wins the freedom for which Scotland has been fighting so fervently.
This event of encouragement reminds us of the short little passage in Hebrews 10:24:
And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works…
William Wallace spurred the complacent Robert into the “good work” that finally put an end to English rule in Scotland. Just imagine how effective we could be if we spurred like that.
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Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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