Live. Die. Repeat.
Groundhog Day meets Alien – I didn’t expect to like The Edge of Tomorrow…but I did. The writers did a great job making the story line work and keeping it interesting, while still communicating the repetitive monotony of the story line. The previews, aside from leaving me with a decided feeling of disinterest in the movie, also left me with a particular concern about the storyline. On both accounts I was proved wrong. My second concern was about the notion of casual killing—let me explain both my concern and how it proved to be the best lesson in the movie instead.
Cage is a military recruiter who finds himself suddenly forced into battle against invading aliens who, unbeknownst to the humans, have the power to “reset” time. In a fluke event, he inherits that ability (thus the Groundhog Day effect)—every time he dies, time “resets” and he gets a chance to try again, until he finally survives. The one caveat is that if he receives a blood transfusion he’ll lose his ability to reset time, so he has to actually die. He knows this because Rita, the one person who has shared his unique ability, lost the ability to reset time when she was found close to dead and given a transfusion to save her life.
In the previews, you see Rita casually shooting Cage to “reset”. It was a little concerning to me to watch something where the good guys think so little of killing each other/themselves. It’s not a little thing to just put a bullet in someone’s brain…even if they can “reset”. I wondered how would that message would translate in the movie, how it would come across. It’s not that I’m overly concerned about violence in movies (I’m sure many would say I need to be more concerned), but usually the killing has something to do with good guys and bad guys. The bad guys kill because they are bad and good guys only kill because they have to, in self-defense and what have you. This is different though. You have a good girl, a hero, shooting a good guy, someone she cares about, without a moment’s thought. That’s different.
As I watched the movie, however, I found it had an unexpected effect. It made me think about how the Lord exhorts us not to hold so tightly to this life.
Cage and Rita weren’t worried about dying because they knew it wasn’t the end. They knew they would get another start, another life as soon as they died, so they weren’t ruled by the fear of dying. Not only that, but they knew that if they were ever going to beat the aliens, they had to keep on trying and dying and resetting. Every time, even though death meant they had failed (that time), they gathered more information and got a little closer to their end goal, defeating the aliens. So while death was a failure in one sense, it was also a gain and one step closer to a win. At first it was a little shocking to Cage (and to viewers) for Rita to whip out a gun and shoot him, but Rita had already been through it. She knew that death was not the end, but a necessary process. She died without flinching and she killed Cage without flinching because there was something more than the moment to live for. They had to be willing to be die themselves, over and over and over again, if they were ever going to truly live, free from oppression and battle with the aliens.
Our story isn’t that different. God reminds us over and over again in His Word that there is more to our lives than the present. If we ever hope to be free from oppression and battle with the enemy, we have to die to ourselves. We have to put to death our earthly passions, our sinful desires, and even sometimes our good desires. All must be put on the cross. That is hard to do—unless we know, as Cage and Rita did, that this is not the end. When we realize that there is a heaven awaiting us, and glorified bodies, and a future with the King of Kings in heaven, we realize we don’t have to hold so tightly to this life. More than that though, we begin to realize that the more we practice dying to self, the further on we get in the battle against sin, the closer to Jesus and the holiness and righteousness He has called us to.
Does that seem far-fetched to you? Here are just a few verses on the topic:
- Luke 9:23—And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
- Galatians 5:24—And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
- Mark 8:35—For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
- 2 Corinthians 4:16—So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
- Galatians 2:20—I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
There are some parts of the world where Christians are literally forced to choose between life and Jesus, but for most of us, our choice is between self and Jesus. Denying yourself isn’t easy. At first it may seem about as crazy as when Rita pulled out her gun and told Cage they needed to reset, and shot him. But, with practice, dying to self gets easier. Each time you do it you realize a little more that you can survive it—you can live without gratifying your desires. You realize that with each death to self (your physical, outer self), your inner self is strengthened and renewed. Each you time you die to self, you gain ground in your fight against the enemy and get closer to defeating him for good. In fact, the only way you will gain ground against him is through this crazy process of dying to self.
Cage had to be willing to die, repeatedly, day after day, if he had any hope of defeating the enemy. After every death he had to start over, but each new start brought an opportunity to gain new ground against the enemy. But Cage got tired of the struggle. He got tired of failing, of restarting, of watching Rita get hurt and die. Even though he knew they could start again, the processing was exhausting and discouraging. That’s why it was so important that he wasn’t alone. Rita was there to encourage him to keep going, to keep fighting, to keep on dying and starting over.
The Christian life is so much like The Edge of Tomorrow, not only in the dying to self day after day and the struggle to defeat the enemy, but also in the monotony and emotional struggles that Cage faced. We too will grow weary of doing good if we aren’t careful. We too can become discouraged, worn out, tired of failing, of starting over and of watching the enemy defeat not only ourselves, but also our loved ones, day after day. But the point is that we keep restarting. His mercies are new every morning, and we need them to be. We must remember that though we fail, sin, and have to die to self, over and over again, we are granted a clean slate every day, a new start… and with every attempt at holiness and every fresh start, we are able to learn something new and gain ground. The Bible encourages us not to forsake gathering together with other believers. Why? Because we need others to encourage us to keep on starting over, to not give up, to keep dying over and over again—because that is the only way to come after Jesus. We are no different than Cage and Rita—we cannot win the fight alone. We need each other and we need to “spur each other on, to … good works.”
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
– Galatians 6:8-9
Questions for Discussion:
- Cage had to be willing to die if he wanted to live. How does that principle apply to normal life? (Can you think of examples in nature? In your life? Etc.?)
- What do you think it means to “die to self”?
- When have you ever died to self in your own life?
- How did Rita help Cage become a worthy warrior?
- How did Rita help Cage stay the course and keep fighting the fight?
- How can we help each other become worthy people/warriors in the fight against sin and evil?
- How can we encourage each other to stay the course and keep fighting the good fight?
- Even though each time Cage died it meant he had failed, he gained something every time he died—can you explain how? How can that help you in your own life to face your failures? What can you gain from your failures?
I stumbled upon this blog—20 Leadership Lessons … from Edge of Tomorrow – it was a great (and different) approach.
 Hebrews 10:24