Would You Rather Be Right or Alive?

I watched Hunter Killer yesterday. It is a movie based on the novel Firing Point which is a military action-thriller by George Wallace (a retired Navy submarine commander) and Don Keith. This movie stars Gerald Butler as a U.S. Navy Captain named Joe Glass. Hunter Killer is the next-generation submarine assigned to Joe to lead/command after a mysterious sinking of a Russian and American submarines in the Arctic Ocean.

The story runs on three parallel tracks: the Russian sea-base, the American war office and the navy SEALs watching the base. The movie isn’t spectacular but I personally enjoyed it. It has plenty of tense action moments that kept me hooked. I won’t give it five-stars but I am thankful to have watched it because it gave me an idea of how military operations work inside a submarine.

I do not intend to spoil the movie. I would just like to share the things about submission to authority that I learnt from this movie.

Photo from journal-topics.com

There was this scene in the movie where Captain Joe made a decision to include Captain Andropov (a Russian captain) in the journey of their survival in a sea territory filled with navy mines. XO Edwards spoke against the decision of Captain Joe since it will surely lead them under court-martial. Captain Joe stood firm with his decision and told XO why Captain Andropov’s guidance is very much needed at the moment. Captain Joe also told XO that it is his duty to make sure XO is alive long enough to testify in the court-martial he is talking about.

In the brink of a dead-end blast, everyone (including myself) assumed that they were being sabotaged by the Russian Captain. So XO all the more insisted on how he is right and how Captain Joe is wrong for trusting Andropov. Little did they know, Andropov knows full-well the map of that sea territory more than what their sub’s navigation system was detecting. They came out of the the territory alive.

XO was so tensed yet relieved. Then Captain Joe stood beside him (with that I-told-you-so smug smile) and asked, “Would you rather be right or alive?”

It wasn’t just a quotable quote for me; that question shook the melancholic in me.

As I was personally reading through John 2 this morning, I could not help but reflect on that Hunter Killer scene with the scene when Jesus revealed his first miracle in a wedding in Cana — turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).

In that wedding, the wine ran out and Mary told Jesus about it. Jesus told Mary, “Why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” But Mary told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

There were six stone water jars at the wedding venue, and each jar can hold twenty to thirty gallons of water! Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”

If I were one of the servants, I’d probably have an XO Edwards moment. I’d probably tell Jesus that what He is commanding us is a tough thing to do since it will not just consume our time but our energy. I’d probably brat around wondering what He is up to or how senseless it is to fill those jars with water — implying that He is wrong and I am right.

But the servants obeyed Jesus without questions or hesitations. They filled each stone jar to the brim.

Then Jesus told the servants, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

Again if I were one of the servants, I’d probably have another XO Edwards moment. “You told us to fill each stone jar with water. That made me so exhausted! And now you’re telling me to just draw some out? Worse, you are telling me to give it to the master of the banquet?! What is up with you?”   — arguing yet again how His command is pointless.

But the servants yet again obeyed Jesus without questions or hesitations. The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He called the bridegroom and expressed how much he is pleased with the taste of that wine.

And being the bratty servant that I was in that scenario, I should end up receiving the question, “Would you rather be right or alive?” More fittingly, “Would you rather be right or faithful?”

Photo from vozafric.com/bible-studies

Before the entry of Captain Andropov in the Hunter Killer sub, Captain Joe made a decision to put their submarine on the ocean floor and dangerously tilt it to a terrifying spot. While doing it, Captain Joe was yelling instructions after instructions to the people in his team. They not only had to respond quickly; they also had to listen attentively to the instructions. One slight mistake or misunderstanding can lead to the destruction of the entire submarine.

In a second, XO responded “What?!” to an instruction of Captain Joe in which Captain Joe yelled, “XO, if I have to repeat everything twice, we won’t make it out here alive!” I think that XO asked “What?!” not because he did not understand the instruction but because he had hesitations to follow it.

I realised that submission to authority involves faith, not righteousness. It involves trusting the One giving the command not because he seems right or wrong but because it is the faithful thing to do. The servants consistently obeyed Jesus without questions or hesitations because they trusted Jesus. It was all done by faith.

There was a time, early this year, when I thought that my mentor was being inconsiderate and unreasonable. Here’s the story… 

My mom and I had this misunderstanding. She was insisting on meeting me one Sunday afternoon for a lunch date. I told her early on that I already have an appointment scheduled at that time. I needed to meet two friends to discuss an urgent and sensitive matter in the ministry but I can’t disclose it to anyone at that time because it was, as I said, personal. I told her, “Mama, I can’t join you for lunch. Let’s have lunch some other time.” She wanted to go with me, but I told her we can’t do that because again it was going to be a personal and sensitive discussion.

For some reason, she was throwing off this attitude. According to her, I was being a brat because I was prioritising friends over family. Obviously, she wanted to spend time with me. But I just can’t cancel my appointment because it was, as I said, an urgent matter. I got so irritated because she was still insisting her way.

Out of annoyance, wanting her to just stop insisting, I blurted out, “Okay, okay. I’ll meet you at home in three hours.”  The problem was: I did not mean what I said. I did not have any intention of meeting her because I just spoke out of irritation.

She waited and I did not show-up. Long story short: I came home welcomed by a mouth full of anger.

My mom opened up the issue to my mentor. There were also other issues that went on top of the main issue which got me even more annoyed because I thought that my mom was making a big deal out of every little thing. Then my mentor talked to me and asked for my side of the story. But instead of hearing what I wanted to hear, my mentor told me, “You need to apologise to your mother.”

Like XO Edwards, I was like “What?!” (probably longer but definitely just in my head).

I could not understand why. I justified that I cannot do that because I think that I am right and my mother was being unreasonable. But my mentor said, “You need to apologise to your mother because you told her you will meet her but you did not.”

I continued to explain to her why I did that but my mentor told me that it is not about my mom or what I think about my mom; but about my integrity as a professing believer of Jesus. It might be just a small statement but it mattered because it revealed a lot about my character. My mentor said, “Do not go to sleep tonight without apologising to your mom.”

I had two options: Listen to my mentor, swallow up my pride, admit that I am wrong and reconcile with my mother. OR Not listen to my mentor, insist that I am right and that she is wrong and go on with my walk with Jesus unreconciled with my mother. Obviously, the first option will honor God but it was the harder option to take.

Would I rather be right or alive? Would I rather be right or faithful?


My mentor and I prayed together after our one-on-one conversation. I was also constantly praying on my way home. I was directing these scenarios in my head but the Holy Spirit was consistently telling me, “Apologize to your mom because that will please God.”  

Praise God! My mom and I had a reconciliation that night. God used those circumstances to help me realise that I have integrity issues and even submission issues. It was not about being right; it was indeed about being faithful to God.

Submitting to the authority and lordship of Jesus and even to the authorities He has blessed me with is a moment-by-moment decision. Personally, I struggle with being consistent at this. But I continue to pray that I will no longer have the heart of XO Edwards but the heart of the servants of Jesus in that wedding at Cana.

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