The Americans: Sacrifice Everything

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 10:30 -- James Oakley
Elizabeth and Paige Jennings

I sometimes note illustrations here that may be useful for me to find later, and that may be useful for others as well.

Here's the teaching of Christ:

Give up everything to follow Christ

This is a familiar part of what Jesus taught: It costs to follow him.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’ (Mark 8:34-38)

Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’

‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’ (Mark 10:28-31)

Jesus calls us to put him above family, above friends, above livelihoods (fields). In princniple, he asks us to lay down our lives for him. For most of us, he never calls in that ultimate price, but we make it in principle when we hand everything over to him.

But Jesus is never anyone's debtor. Whoever sacrifices everything for him, in this way, will never find that they're worse off for doing so. It's always net gain to follow Jesus, even though it costs everything.

The Americans

The Americans was a spy thriller written by Joe Weisberg for the FX Television Network. Set in Reagan era America, it stars a married couple who live in Washington DC, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings. Their names are actually, respectively, Mischa and Nadezhda, two Russians trained to live under deep cover and adopt American identities.

On the surface, the 6 season drama follows the ins and outs of their espionage, as they seek to evade detection and capture whilst returning vital information to their Russian KGB masters. The drama draws the viewer in, as Western viewers feel their loyalties divided. Part of you wants the actual Americans to discover this threat to their national security; but the story is told with the Jennings as the protagonists, so you are drawn to see the world through their eyes and want them to succeed.

The story works on another level. As well as tracking their espionage, the real story is actually about the relationships and the strains caused by this double life. Philip and Elizabeth's marriage is at times extremely strained, as Philip embraces his American identity whereas Elizabeth never forgets that she is Russian first and foremost. Relationships with neighbours are strained, most notably with Stan Beeman, an FBI agent who moves opposite and becomes Philip's best friend. And relationships with their children are strained, as Paige and Henry cannot know what their parents do.

However Season 3 opens with the KGB initiating a new development. They wish to develop a network of "second generation illegals", children of first generation couples. These children were actually born and raised within the United States. If they can be trained to see their first loyalty to Russia, they will be able to get security clearances that would be far too risky for their parents with fake identities. This means Philip and Elizabeth need to come to terms with the request to introduce their true identities to Paige, so she can be trained herself.

Gradually, after some reluctance, and after not seeing eye-to-eye on this, they do. Paige is introduced to the Jennings' handler, Claudia.

That much sets up the portion I wish to quote, for those who have not seen the series.

You can buy the whole set from Amazon on DVD, or watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

The Illustration

Season 6, Episode 7, is entitled "harvest".

Philip and Elizabeth have just been to Chicago. Another "illegal" Russian spy there has had his cover blown. They went to try to extradite him. Paige knew this was happening, so asks her mother how the mission went.

Paige: How'd it go in Chicago? Did you get the guy out?
Elizabeth: No. It didn't go well.
Paige: What happened?
Elizabeth: He died. Marilyn, too.
Paige: How?
Elizabeth: We were in a car, the FBI...: Marilyn was shot.
Paige: Err, is Dad?
Elizabeth: He's okay. The whole thing just went to shit.
Paige: I thought you said this doesn't happen a lot.
Elizabeth: It doesn't, but it can. And it does. Do you understand?
Paige: What?
Elizabeth: You're going to have to make a decision, Paige. To commit to this work, or to get out. Because sometimes this is what we have to do. And it's not easy, and it doesn't always end well. And it's a commitment you have to make for life.
Paige: I understand.
Elizabeth: Do you?
Paige: I know there's risk, and what you do is dangerous.
Elizabeth: But are you willing to give up friends, and relationships. And your life if you have to. Because that's what's being asked of you.

In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Luke 14:33

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