Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Friendship
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was not a smashing hit of 2008, but it was definitely a great movie. It takes place during WWII and follows the life of Bruno, the young son of a powerful Nazi officer who is responsible for killing hundreds and thousands of Jews at the concentration camp he manages. It’s not long before Bruno meets and befriends a little boy named Shmuel, who’s imprisoned in the camp. Little did either of the boys know that their friendship would get them into so much trouble.
One particular scene that I found to be pretty moving was when a Nazi soldier discovered Shmuel and Bruno’s friendship. As you probably already know, any relation beyond one of pure oppression was not allowed AT ALL during WWII – this was because of the racial prejudice many Germans had against the Jewish people. Bruno seemed to be fine with his friendship with Shmuel – until it presented a problematic situation with the German soldier. At that point he obviously changed his mind about his friend and blatantly lied about his involvement with the Jewish boy.
After watching this scene, I was feeling a little convicted. Thinking back on my life – I can think of a couple times where, within my friendships, my actions might line up more with Bruno’s.
Bruno was eager to call Shmuel his friend, and seemed to genuinely believe it. But when push came to shove, fear overruled his actions, and consequently his relationship with Shmuel was badly hurt. He denied what he knew was good and true, because he was nervous about his own well-being.
It’s interesting, because the context of this scene is very much like another story we find in the Bible. Let’s take a look at it…
- Luke 22:54-62 (New Living Translation)
54 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”
57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”
58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”
“No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.
59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”
60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
Peter had spent over three years with Jesus; so many people would know that they were friends. However, when questioned first by a slave girl and then others, Peter lied about having anything to do with Jesus. And as we read, the consequence was that he was heartbroken and experienced great emotional pain.
- What are some of the great friendships you have either had as a child or have seen in media?
- Why do many of our childhood friendships end? (i.e. people change, circumstances/interests start to differ, etc.)
- Have you ever felt betrayed by a friend? If you’re comfortable, can you share what happened?
- Is it possible that you might have responded the way Bruno did? Why or why not?
- How would you have responded if you were the Jewish boy?
- (Looking at the passage in Luke 22:54-62…) Why do you think the people asked Peter about knowing Jesus?
- What possible consequences did Peter face if he admitted having a friendship with Jesus?
- Do you think it was easy or difficult for Bruno and Peter to deny their friendships? Why?
- Why do you think Peter wept bitterly?
- Is it possible for us to deny Jesus today, even if it is in different ways? Why or why not?
- What does denying Jesus look like today?
- Do you think Jesus wants a friendship with us after we deny Him?
- The great news is that even though at some point most of us have betrayed Jesus in one way or another, He is full of grace and forgiveness and a renewing of our friendship with Him is ALWAYS available. Let me read to you what happened between Peter and Jesus after Jesus rose from the dead.
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
- Jesus was letting Peter know that even though he denied Him, Jesus still had plans to use Him. The same is true for us – we may have failed Christ and are feeling terrible, but what Jesus wants to know is if we truly love Him – and if we do, He wants to give us a fresh start and we can still be used by Him and do great things for God.
Let’s talk about this some more:
- What are the rewards for remaining loyal to Jesus and standing up for Him? Are there consequences if we don’t, and what are they?
- Are the consequences for denying Jesus worse than the ones we might face for standing up for Him? Why or why not?
- What are some specific ways we can reveal our friendship with Jesus? (i.e. sharing our faith, praying for our friends, serving them, etc.)
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.