I shall tell you of Blind Harry the Minstrel.
Harry was a 15th century Scottish Poet. The author of The Acts and Deeds of the Illustrious and Valiant Champion Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, also known as simply The Wallace. It was the second most popular book in Scotland (after the Bible) for hundreds of years. Written about 170 years after his life, the poem is twelve volumes recounting the heroic deeds of William Wallace. It is historical fiction. Meaning it was loosely based on history, but a lot of it never really happened the way he said it did.
It was the inspiration for the 1995 film, Braveheart, which won the Oscar for Best Picture that year. It has been my favorite movie of all time, up until the point where I discovered history didn’t actually happen that way. Most of it was just like Blind Harry’s Epic, fiction loosely based on historical events. Now it’s my favorite movie of all time, just a little less enthusiastically. The film diverges from history most notably when it comes to the character of Robert the Bruce, one of Scotland’s greatest kings. He never betrayed William Wallace (the two likely never met), never fought for the English against his own people in the battle of Falkirk. And although he was rather flip-floppy in the beginning, it was he who led the Scots to freedom from English rule on the fields at Bannockburn.
He was the real Brave Heart of history, partly because while he was alive he was a heroic warrior and king, but also because upon his death, he ordered for his heart to be removed from his body and carried by his lieutenant, Sir James Douglas, into battle “against God’s foes.” Douglas carried the King’s heart with him in a silver casket on a crusade to the Holy Land. Robert the Bruce quite literally gave his heart away for the people and cause he believed in.
One of the most moving scenes in Braveheart is early on in the film. William Wallace’s father and brother have been killed by the English. After the funeral, late at night, you see men in the mist and shadows of darkness, playing a mournful song on their bagpipes. When young William hears it, he asks his uncle what is going on, what these men are doing. His uncle responds, “Saying goodbye in their own way. Playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes.”
Fascinating. You can make all the laws you want, attempt to marginalize people, make them feel inferior, refuse to see them as equals, strip them of basic freedoms. And people will always find a way. It’s part of the beauty and strength of the human spirit. We have this innate sense that we were created for more. Created for freedom. And we refuse to yield. We always find a way.
You can’t legislate the way people mourn, how they treat others, what they love, the things they put their faith in. It’s when the government tries to control these things that free-minded people have always been stirred to revolt. Somehow we still haven’t learned this. We continue to try and force everyone to believe what we believe, to think how we think, to live how we think they should live. We politicize issues that are so ingrained in people’s hearts that politics and laws can never even touch them. Our impassioned speeches, fiery sermons, and firm convictions continue to fall on deaf ears.
By refusing to try and understand others, by ignoring the truth that we are all a mess and therefore all equal before God, by believing that we’re right and consequently better and have the inside track on all things spiritual, by continuing to be haughty and arrogant throughout the battle, we marginalize those who don’t believe what we believe. We make them feel like they’re on the outside, forced into the foggy mists of life, into the shadows of night.
Outlawed hearts playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes.
We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that this is the way of Jesus. Any honest reading of the gospels makes it clear that Jesus spent his time with the marginalized, the outsiders, the oppressed. He hung out in the mists, in the shadows, on the margins. He loved everyone, but he associated with the people who were shunned and looked down upon by the religious people who were saying and doing all of the right things. Jesus was a brave heart who had fiery battles with the haughty and arrogant types who believed their inside track to God gave them license to act as if they were better than everyone else.
He modeled for us the truth that the only way to make a difference in the world, the only way to restore hope, the only way to redeem what has been lost, the only way to life, is not insisting on your rights, but to actually give your heart away. To sacrifice, to put your own agenda aside, to lay down your life for the life of another. Even if they don’t believe what you believe, even if they don’t live how you think they should live, even if they think you’re crazy.
This is the heart of Jesus.
Now carry the heart of your King into the battle.