There he was. Lying in a hospital bed, dying from a bioweapon pathogen (isn’t it kind of scary that we even know words like this now?). The doctor tells him that there is nothing she can do, except give him morphine, sending him into a coma that would make his death easier, take away his pain. “Not yet,” Jack Bauer says. There’s obviously something left to do. A nurse enters the room and says that Jack has a visitor. The doctor is surprised, but Jack says that it’s okay. Every viewer of this season’s finale of 24 sits up, sure that Bauer’s estranged daughter, Kim, who is Jack’s only hope for survival will walk in the door.
What?!?! In walks the Muslim mullah (I know that’s redundant) who in a previous episode assured Jack that it was never too late to turn to God for the forgiveness of all the terrible things he had done. “Thank you for coming,” whispers Jack. “I was surprised to get your call,” replies the mullah. What? You mean in the last moments of his life the one thing Jack had left to do was to seek the spiritual help of a mullah?
Jack tells him that he is dying. “I know,” says the holy man. “I thought there would be time to correct the bad things that I have done,” laments Jack. “There is time now,” says the mullah. “But, you don’t know what I’ve done.” “I know that I see a man with all of his flaws and his goodness.” With his left hand the mullah takes Jack’s hand, then turning his right hand palm-upward, he closes his eyes and prays: “Let us both forgive ourselves for the wrongs we have done.” In the moment of silence that follows, a serene, peaceful, dare I say, forgiven, look comes over Jack’s face, and then he says, “It’s time.” Jack is prepared to die.
At this point in the blog, as a good bible-believing Christian I’m supposed to dissect the mullah’s bad, humanistic theology, (e.g. no God is invoked, no Savior needed, etc.), but, give me a break – why do we have to be so predictable and high-mighty, plus miss an incredible lesson or two, thanks to our critique?
A couple of quick lessons:
1. The search for the holy, the transcendent. At the moment of his dying, Jack retrieves the one encounter that transcended the mess of his life, the one holy moment in the show where an unlikely person offers him God. May we realize how desperately some people really do want God, in spite of their protests, in spite of their hell-bent lives. They are so waiting for something holy to show up – in us, through us.
2. The simplicity of the offer. The mullah simply offers Jack an experience with God. If it had been me, I would have started explaining so many things about God that Jack would have died before I finished, or worse, said, “Never mind.” Sometimes I wonder if it’s our own insecurity about our faith that tempts us to over-explain rather than invite someone to experience God. Or, we don’t say anything because we don’t know where to start. (Don’t panic – I still believe in teaching and apologia, a good reason for our hope.) But, may we learn to just offer God to people.
3. Identity with sin and need. The best thing about the mullah’s prayer is that he joins Jack as a person of need. “Let us both . . . . ” Awesome. O, Lord, forgive us for the self-righteousness that creeps in, that is so deadly to others.
When you watch your favorite shows, pay attention – you might learn something essential about serving others.