I recently watched the movie “Kingdom of Heaven”. In the movie, the main character is a young man named Balian. He is the illegitimate son of a Knight. His father, Godfrey comes to him to offer him his “blessing” as his son. He declines at first but soon pursues him and embraces his identity as the son of Godfrey. In a subsequent battle Godfrey is mortally wounded and before his death makes his son a Knight instructing him with these words,
“Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Be brave and upright that God may love thee.
Speak the truth – always, even if it leads to your death.
Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.
That is your oath.”
The King of Israel, whom Balian serves, is stricken with leprosy and has no heir except his sister. She is trapped in an arranged marriage to an evil man named Guy De Lusignan who is intent on making war with the Muslims when the king dies. Lusignan will become king because of the arranged marriage. Before his death, the King asks Balian if he will marry his sister, (and thus become king) because he knows the evil that is in Lusignan. Balian asks what is to become of Lusignan and the King says he will be put to death. Balian, true to his oath will not participate in this plan. The King dies and Lusignan does become king. He immediately provokes a war and is soundly crushed.
The Muslim army proceeds to take Jerusalem and this leaves Balian to defend it without an army. Facing a huge army of more than 200,000 he inspires the men of Jerusalem to fight with these words. “It has fallen to us to defend this city… not to protect these stones but the people living within these walls.” Just before the attack of the foreign army Balian encounters a teenage boy and sensing the fear of the people instructs all the men capable of making war to kneel. He then recites the oath of the Knight to all of them and makes them all Knights. One of the impudent (and spineless) religious leaders says to him, “And does it make a man a better warrior if you make him a Knight?” Balian turns and responds emphatically, “Yes!” In the battle, Balian preserved the lives of his people but lost the city. Many would call that failure, but Balian kept his oath.
There are three things I want us to consider from this story. First, the oath that Balian takes as a Knight is a good oath. We would all do well to heed these words. Second, it DOES make a man a better warrior to make him a Knight. Being in Christ we are of noble birth and as such we are Knights in the service of our King. Finally, I think Balian understood something we often miss; the Kingdom of Heaven is people. I know that’s simplistic and it is much more than that. And yet, it was Jesus who said, “the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) We are called to nobility, not for our glory, but for Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven. So, “Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth – always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong. That is your oath.”