Man Down

I love the movie Forrest Gump. One of the most heart-rending scenes is when he is in Vietnam with his bestest buddy, Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue. There’s a firestorm in the jungle. It was when Forrest had run to safety that he realized that Bubba was missing. He goes back in to find him but keeps encountering downed soldiers. One after another, brave Forrest keeps carrying them out of danger until he finally finds Bubba.

{Note: This movie clip has quite a bit of cursing…but it WAS depicting the war in Vietnam…}


In Army Basic Training, they taught us that you never leave a man down. Ever. I remember practicing fireman carries, finding that I could carry people who were much larger than me. We practiced dragging a downed man while taking fire. Taking care of squadmates – this is the military’s modus operandi – the way we operate.

(Photo Credit: Holly Mindrup)

Sometimes in the church, we can watch a man (or woman) go down and it’s our job to help rescue him from his jungle of warfare, too. The apostle Paul writes:

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently, But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)

Restore him gently.

                  Watch yourself.

                               Carry each other’s burdens.

                                                                                                             Fulfill the law of Christ.

                                                                                                                                     This is our job.

Jesus always wants restoration. It’s why He came. He carried our burdens to the cross, to the point of crucifixion. It’s our job to be careful in this restoration process – unlike Him, we’re completely human, not divine, and can be tempted. But when we help restore a brother or a sister, we fulfill the Law…to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Luke 10:27) We lay down our lives (our time, energy, strength, talents and gifts) to help others find theirs again. We have love with action and deeds in truth, not just with words and speech. (1 John 3:18)

Every soldier’s recovery is different. Just as in church, when we have a brother or sister who falters, there is a healing process. We come alongside them. We help them heal; we can’t shoot our wounded.

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

Honestly, we should just read the end of James here. He talks about what to do when we’re in trouble, happy, or sick. When we confess our sins to and pray for one another, there is healing, for the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

But as those of us who have helped others or been in recovery know, the person has got to want it more than us. I’ve counseled a variety of people and have learned that I can’t want or work their recovery process more than they do.

Do you remember Forrest rescuing Lieutenant Dan? He really didn’t want to be saved from the fight, either; he wanted to die in war like his fathers before him. Forrest refused to leave him there and over the course of their entire relationship, he kept offering him love and opportunities for purpose and healing. Sometimes, Forrest had to walk away or be chased. But Hollywood made sure that in the end, Lieutenant Dan came around.

It’s a pretty good illustration how we ought to keep loving and offering, too. I just wish every story could be a Hollywood ending.

I’ll end with this:

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:7-10)

Leave No Man Behind.