The Samurai and Christian Masculinity

A friend recently encouraged me to watch The Last Samurai. It had been six years since I last saw the film, and I was struck by many themes present in the film.  Most notably, the journey that a Samurai took to become a skilled warrior, or Bushido.  And how these themes represent some of the best of what it means to be a Christian man.  This might be an over-simplification, but I’m encouraged by it.

Actor Tom Cruise, for all of his recent socio-drama, had some incredible things to say on the special features DVD.  As part of getting into his role as Captain Nathan Algren, (who was a Civil war captain brought in as an advisor to the Japanese army), he noted that this captain committed himself to a “philosophical code of honor” after he was captured by Katsumoto.  This philosophical code is the code of the samurai.  “The way of the warrior.”    So Cruise adopted this code for himself for the film.

In one part of the documentary on how the film came together, a Japanese woman said that the way of the Samurai has largely been lost in the culture of Japan, but there are still echoes of it that remain.  With the help of a stellar director (Edward Zwick) and a top actor (Cruise) they could “Help us remember what has been lost.”

I want to say, isn’t this true of us all?  Don’t we need help remembering what we’ve lost as men?  As women?  (For the women readers).

Jesus himself said in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”  There has been a lot lost about us as men over the years.  Society has a way of paring our claws and deadening the inner strength and resolve we were designed and created for.    What in your life is still lost?

As Tom Cruise grew and matured into his role, he said…”As the layers peeled off of my body and the greater control that I had, it (the way of the Samurai) actually changed the way that I moved in the armor (I wore) and the way I carried myself.  I could feel the ability of the mind over the body and recognized the ability to control the body.”

This self control and inner discipline is what is said of Jesus in Isaiah 50:7, “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.  Therefore, I have set my face like a flint and I know I will not be put to shame.”

Here is the code of the Samurai.  The Way of the Warrior (Bushido).   This is the way I want to live my life as a Christian man, in its fullness.  I pray I am well on my journey, but there is always much learning to do.

Honesty and Justice

Be acutely honest throughout your dealings with all people.  Believe in justice, not from other people, but from yourself.    To the true Samurai, there are no shades of gray in the question of honesty and justice.  There is only right and wrong.

Polite Courtesy

Samurai have no reason to be cruel.  They do not need to prove their strength.  A Samurai is courteous even to his enemies.  Without this outward show of respect, we are nothing more than animals.   A Samurai is not only respected for his strength in battle, but also by his dealing with other men.  The true strength of a Samurai becomes apparent in difficult times.

Heroic Courage

Rise above the masses of people who are afraid to act.  Hiding like a turtle in a shell is not living at all.  A samurai must have heroic courage.  It is absolutely risky.  It is dangerous.    It is living life completely, fully, wonderfully.  Heroic courage is not blind.  It is intelligent and strong.

Honor

A true Samurai has only one judge of honor, and this is himself.  Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you truly are.  You cannot hide from yourself.

Compassion

Through intense training, the Samurai becomes quick and strong.  He is not as other men.  He develops a power that must be used for the good of all.  He has compassion.  He helps his fellow man at every opportunity.  If an opportunity does not arise, he goes out of his way to find one.

Complete Sincerity

When a Samurai has said he will complete an action, it is as good as done.  Nothing will stop him from completing what he has said he will do.  He does not have to “give his word.”  He does not have to “promise.”    Speaking and doing are the same action.

Duty and Loyalty

For the Samurai, having done some “thing” or said some “thing,” he knows that he owns that “thing.”  He is responsible for it, and all the consequences that follow.  A Samurai is intensely loyal to those in his care.    To those he is responsible for, he remains fiercely true.

Men, consider printing out this code and replacing Samurai with “Christian man” and begin to see lost things about your life, namely an inner strength, begin to be found as we journey with our Master Jesus.

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