I remember June 4, 1989. The Tianamen Square Massacre. In particular, I remember this scene – a lone man in black pants and a white shirt keeping his body between the protestors and a column of tanks. Most pictures that you see today have the 4 tanks, the reality is there were another 8 tanks behind these 4. Tanks kept pouring into the street but were stopped by a lone man with a shopping bag. The tank would move right, he would move right. The tank moved left, he shuffled over in front of it. He climbed on top of the turret. The tank shut off its engine. None of the other tanks broke ranks. The student climbed down off the tank, the tank started its engine again and began to move – he jumped in front of it again. The tank stopped again.
About 800 yards away, Jeff Widener was sick with the flu in his 6th floor room at the Beijing Hotel. He was a photographer for the Associated Press. He began shooting pics of the incident, hiding one roll in the back of the toilet. A few minutes later, officials from the Chinese Public Affairs office broke into his room and took all the film he had – except that hidden in the toilet. He would come back the next day and find the film, smuggled it out of China and the world would never be the same.
Eventually, a group of students emerged from the crowd and escorted the lone man to safety. But this image will never be forgotten. Standing in front of the tanks.
The only defense that man had was a shopping bag and the truth.
The shopping bag tells me that he loved his country and family, that he still had hope that truth would win, right would defeat wrong. Him standing defenseless in front of a tank tells me he was a man willing to sacrifice and that he believed eventually truth wins. The truth that even if he died in that moment, one day his story would be told and that act would lead others to start standing in front of their own tanks.
What can penetrate the armor of a tank? Love and Truth. What a huge moment – the enemy was not the tank or the man driving the tank but the authority behind the tank. The simple act of sacrifice gave pause to the tank driver. That was the point – if every single person would give pause – then there could be a peaceful revolution.
What an image for Christ-followers. What will penetrate the tanks of our world? Truth and Love. Ephesians 4 kind of truth and love.
Those tanks could be anything – sickness, jobs, death, spiritual apathy, our cultures continuous battle with the values we hold dear. As Christ-followers we are not only consistently baited into battle with our culture but to do so in ways that compromise the very message we bring. When this happens – remember this picture.
Just stand in front of the tank with love and truth. Don’t fight their battle their way. Jesus died for those people too.
This is why we do BackSnacks for McCarter, Sharefest, serve at the Pow-Wow — which is this weekend, by the way!!! This is why we do series like Jesus @ The Movies. We are learning to stand in front of the tanks armed with only truth and love.