A LESSON FROM JANEWAY

If you are not a fan of Star Trek Voyager, let me apologize in advance for being such a space geek and ask that you hang in there, past a little gushing about Captain Janeway (played by Kate Mulgrew), to the lesson for Christian women in one of my favorite episodes. 

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Voyager (the series that aired in the late 1990’s) is my hands-down favorite Star Trek series from the franchise. Janeway is, to me, the epitome of what it means to be a great leader. She has a rock solid moral center. She repeatedly sacrifices self, her ship and her crew for the greater good and higher goal. For a non-religious show, it had an amazing focus on selflessness and good moral character.

I recently caught the end of one of my favorite episodes – one that clearly exposes what I mean about Janeway’s moral compass. Before I drag you into the reason for the quote by Janeway, let me give it to you here so that perhaps you will get the focus of it as I explain how it happened. The quote is this: “A single act of compassion can put you in touch with your own humanity.” 

The episode I watched recently is titled “Prey.” In this episode, by helping a wounded Hirogen (a warrior species that has already been a grave threat to her crew in the past), Janeway finds that the Hirogen’s prey, a member of life form simply known as “species 8472’” has boarded Voyager. This life form was considered worse – a more sinister prey – than the Hirogen or the human-hybrid Borg. The species 8472 being was wounded and trying to get away from the Hirogen to get home. 

Janeway, made the decision to help it get away, even under threat by the Hirogen that they would destroy Janeway and her crew if she did that. In explaining her decision to do so, Janeway told of being a young officer in a battle against another foe, the Cardassians (not to be confused with the current Kardashians).  During a night-time break in the fighting, Janeway was told, by her captain, to crawl out into no-mans-land, at great personal risk, and pull a wounded Cardassian to safety so that he could be tended to by their doctor. 

This was their mortal enemy, currently locked in battle with them, but her captain was unwilling to leave the wounded enemy to suffer and die when they were in a position to help. The lesson that she learned from this, according to Janeway, was that compassion for other creatures, even your own enemies, was an essential part of being human. 

Does that make any sense from a human, self-preservation standpoint? No, not really. Human reasoning typically tells us to at least ignore the suffering enemy, or, better, to go finish him off.

However, if you are a Christian, you know, beyond a shadow of doubt that compassion, care and providing for others, even on our enemies – especially our enemies – is an essential requirement of being a Christ-follower. Jesus Christ taught us that the act of caring for our enemies, more than putting us in touch with our “humanity,” actually puts us in touch with our Heavenly Father. 

Luke 6:35-36 [NIV] But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Read Luke 6:26-38 for some other guidelines out of Jesus’ own mouth that make all the God-sense in the universe, but make absolutely no sense from a human, self-preservation standpoint.

Romans 12:19-21 [NIV] Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The commentator David Guzik explains verses 20-21 this way:

g. Overcome evil with good: With this mind-set, we will do good to our enemies, looking for the most practical ways we can help them. This is the way we are not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

i. Is the heaping coals of fire on his head something good in the eyes of our enemy or is it something bad? It most likely refers to a “burning conviction” that our kindness places on our enemy. Or, some think it refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire to help a neighbor start their own – an appreciated act of kindness.

ii. Nevertheless, we see that we can destroy our enemy by making him our friend.

I like that explanation: “we can destroy our enemy by making him our friend.” Seems to me that this should be our passionate, consuming focus, as children of our Merciful Father, in considering what to do with an enemy.

The parable of the Good Samaritan, gives a perfect illustration of this type of love in action. We find that story in Luke 10:30-37. I wish we could get in the mind of the wounded Jewish man to see how he felt about Samaritans after that. 

I get that it doesn’t always work that way. Some “enemies” will not give up their hate, no matter how much good we do for them. God is in the business of changing hearts and only His Holy Spirit can create real change to the human character. But we must try – for our own sakes – to turn enemies into friends by showing compassion and mercy, caring and love, in the face of whatever ill they may wish us or do to us. 

Rather than putting us in touch with our humanity, as Janeway phrased it, it actually puts us in touch with our Father God.

The world would have us draw lines between friend and foe – to treat “friends” with love and “foes” with, well, at least less love. But our Father does not give us room for that being my excuse for any different treatment between friend and foe. Jesus called us to put aside this human “wisdom” on the matter. 

Let me leave you with a final set of scriptures to drive this home. Matthew 5:43-48 [NIV] You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We must focus on the perfection that exists only in the love and compassion we show our fellow man. It is no more clear and poignant than when we show it to those who would frame themselves as our enemies. If some Hollywood writer can be bold enough to have Captain Janeway do it, the least I can do is strive to go “one better” than the fictional Janeway in my Christian walk. 

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.