Dear John

Review by: Stacey Tuttle

 It isn’t all that often that Hollywood produces a main stream movie about sacrificial love.  There have been a few that have stood out to me: Gran Torino, The War (Kevin Costner), Life is Beautiful (Ok, it was foreign, but Hollywood gave it some big awards!)…  But none of those are examples of sacrificial romantic love.  The only one that really comes to mind is Nicholas Spark’s The Notebook because James Garner’s character stayed by his wife faithfully when she didn’t even know who he was, patiently hoping and working for that moment of recognition.  Six years later, we get another story from Nicholas Sparks about sacrificial love.  Only this time, the main character isn’t making sacrifices to be with the woman he loves; this time his sacrifices are for her benefit alone.  In fact, they almost guarantee he won’t be with her at all.  

It’s unfortunate that this point is so understated.  The poignancy is almost lost in the movie when it should have been the turning point, so let me draw a little attention to it. John’s military commitment was extended due to the 9-11 attacks.  While he is gone, his girlfriend, Savannah, ends up marrying someone else.  John comes home to find that her husband is dying of cancer and their only hope is medication which insurance won’t cover and they cannot afford.   It would have been easy for John to be hurt and offended that Savannah didn’t wait for him to come home.  In truth, part of him was.   To add to that hurt and confusion, her husband confided in John that she had never loved him like she loved John.  And Tim, her husband, further confided that he knew she still loved John.  This seems an odd thing for a husband to share with his wife’s former boyfriend, but he knew he was dying and was presumably doing what he could to ensure his wife’s future happiness and in a way confer his blessing and encouragement to John being a part of her life. 

So, John is left with the knowledge that the woman he loves still loves him, never stopped loving him and never loved her husband with the same kind of love that she loves him…and her husband is dying.  In a world where people cheat and have affairs and do what they feel like without thinking twice about it, the very fact that John didn’t try to take advantage of the situation was impressive enough.  But John’s ideas of love and service had been greatly expanded by his past history with Savannah.  She inspired him and challenged him to think more about truly loving others by living his life in selfless service to them.   Now, he finds himself facing the ultimate test of love – is he willing to essentially lay down his life, his will for her?  Is he willing to do everything in his power to do what is best for her – even though it means potentially losing her forever?  In an incredible act of selfless love, he sells his inheritance and gives the money (anonymously) to provide for Tim’s medical treatments, buying Tim another 5 years of life.  

Matthew 13:44 says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love”.  What kind of love, though?  There are many things in our society we call “love”.   John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” So, whatever kind of love you find yourself in, romantic, brotherly, etc., the real test of its greatness is the degree to which it ennobles one to lay his or her life down in submission and sacrifice to the other. 

Questions to Ponder and Discuss:

  • Do you know people who love with such a great and noble love that you cannot but believe they must be Christians? 
  • What examples have you seen of that “greater love” – of people who were willing to lay their lives down for someone else?  Either in real life or in movies/books. 
  • How do you personally do with loving others in the way that the Bible describes?
  • Do you know that Jesus loved you enough to die for you?