The Undefeated was made back in 1969 and features John Wayne and Rock Hudson in the leading roles. Although Wayne was a little bit before my time, I’m always up for seeing anything that he was in. While nobody will ever confuse him with a great actor, the characters he portrayed always had a down-to-earth honesty about them and usually stood for noble things.
The Undefeated is a post Civil War flick that has Wayne as the former Union officer (Colonel John Henry Thomas), and Hudson as Colonel James Langdon of the Confederate States of America. Thomas and his ex-soldiers are running horses down to Mexico for Emperor Maximilian, while the disaffected Langdon and his group are carrying guns for the emperor and plan to relocate there and join the Mexican army. Of course, the two groups meet along the way and their interactions carry the plot line and provide redemptive opportunities.
Early in the movie, Langdon has returned to his southern plantation. The war has left him impoverished and unable to meet the high taxes being imposed on his land. Some carpetbaggers come by and offer him next to nothing for the plantation but Langdon runs them off. Then, having made up his mind to take his family to Mexico, he sets fire to his mansion.
Undoubtedly, there is some spite involved in his actions. He doesn’t want the carpetbagger to acquire it by paying a fraction of what it is worth. But I think there’s more to what he does than that. Although he has great attachment to his home, he has his eyes on the future. His can burn his past because he is convinced the something better awaits him.
That’s what the Scripture calls “hope.”
The more you want to live, the more you need hope. If you’re just interested in accumulating some things and then clinging to them, then you only need a trace amount (you hope nothing happens to you or your stuff). Or, if you’re just “waiting” your way through this life for the next one, I suppose you have to have some hope about what will happen after you die but that’s about it. However, if you’re interested in living fully, that usually requires letting go of some things, doesn’t it? Abraham had to let go of Mesopatamia, Haran, and his family there. The disciples of Jesus had to let go of life as they knew it to follow Christ. If we want to live for God, it is almost a certainty that we will be called to let go of some things.
How do you this and not be bitter? I suppose one way is to realize that some of the things we’re holding on to are holding us back. Abraham left a land of idolatry (Joshua 24:2-3). Some of the disciples left things behind that weren’t so great (Simon was a zealot, Matthew a tax collector). The other way is to recognize that anything we give up pales in comparison to the blessings God has for us. And that brings us back to hope—which is really the only thing we need to hang on to.
May our life be as full as our hope is through Jesus.