At first glance, it may seem that Independence Day: Resurgence is just another story about saving the world. Not so! For former President Thomas Whitmore, it’s about saving Patty, his daughter. While the original movie focused on saving the world, the sequel gives attention to mature people saving the ones they love.
Twenty years after the events of Independence Day, an alien race returns to our planet to destroy all life. Many of the same people who repelled the first attack now lead the efforts (contains spoilers), along with their children and new heroes.
Towards the end of the movie, Thomas Whitmore flies a plane with nuclear warheads into the enemy ship to destroy the “queen” alien, saving the world and sacrificing his life. His daughter, however, Patricia Whitmore had originally volunteered for the role. Upset that he took her place, she joins him as his wingman and scolds him:
Patricia: “You should have let me do this. You’ve saved the world once before Dad.”
Thomas: “I’m not saving the world, Patty. I’m saving you.”
Who Are You Helping?
From Patricia’s and Thomas’s lines, we see different levels of maturity. We find the same in John’s letter to early Christians:
“I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:14)
Whether the terms (“children, “fathers”, and “young men”) refer to how long they have followed Jesus or actual age, John wrote to people of varying stages of maturity. Interestingly enough, the youngest and oldest seem similar, if not the same. The statements focus on knowing God. This is relational. The young men stick out, as John comments on being strong and overcoming evil. Why? What does this tell us about how we grow?
Allow me to read between the lines and propose an interpretation. The youngest focus on their relationships, on friends and family, but it stops there, which is arguably selfish. The young men have come to see beyond their immediate relationships, seeing the larger story, a struggle between good and evil. They want to make this world a better place. While Patricia certainly loves her father, her words focus on saving the world.
The mature, however, become relational again, but not in the same way as children. Although they still fight the larger battle, they do not seek to save the world in some abstract way, but save individuals whom they love.
In my experience, I have found that I am not very good at living in the abstract. Trying to make the world a better place soon becomes more about me succeeding than others thriving. When I actually focus on other individuals, it is much easier to consistently act out of love.
While the last stage is most admirable, we learn from John and President Whitmore that we can encourage others in their present phase of maturity. John does not criticize the children or young men, but honors them. Similarly, Thomas Whitmore applauds his daughter: “It’s good to see you flying again. Your place is in the air.”
Additionally, we see another example of these stages of maturity in my favorite character from the movie: Julius Levinson. In his first scene, he’s selling his book: “How I Saved the World”. Despite the success, he expresses his sadness, “This book is a bargain! 9.95. It makes a great gift for your grandchildren. If you’re lucky enough to have any.”
Later, we see he’s disappointed that he rarely sees his son David, as the latter heads Earth’s defense. In the events of the movie, Julius connects and travels with a number of children who lost their parents. The young and the old find that they need each other, and thankfully, they comfort one another.
Making the World a Better Place, One Person at a Time
One can argue that I might be reading too much in the passage of John and the movie. Either way, the application makes itself obvious. Hopefully, we all want to make the world a better place and we all act towards that end. Keep doing that and do it more! Let’s also learn from Thomas Whitmore.
As we try to make the world better, let’s not live in the abstract. Let’s get to know people and choose to love them. In this way, we can love the world by loving actual people, improving life one person at a time. This is not to say that we shouldn’t address systemic or abstract evils such as political injustice, but it helps to seek to know and keep actual affected individuals in mind.
And better than any president, we can follow the example of Jesus. We see from the stories of his life that Jesus cared deeply for individuals, not just “the world”. On His way to Jerusalem, where He would soon sacrifice his life on the cross for all humanity, He saw a man and said, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” When the man committed himself to God, leaving a life of greed and corruption, Jesus explained about Himself: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:5,10).
Jesus’s personal love did not stop after the Bible was written. His followers today find that He is near and closely involved in the details of our lives. Using the term “world” in an abstract way, He might say to each of us by name: “I’m not saving the world, ________. I’m saving you.”