Comments, Thoughts and Trivia
The Passion of the Christ
Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ has now been in the movie theaters a little over a week. From a human perspective, the film is doing remarkably well with very high gross revenues. The reports I hear from those who have seen the movie suggest that it has a great impact on the audiences. This impact is certainly emotional in nature. What we must pray for is that it is also spiritual.p
My family and I are not going to see the movie. This may seem to be a strange position in a world where most of the Christian community is promoting the movie, but this is our position none the less. We have three reasons for this decision, one moral, one theological, and one emotional.
Our moral reason involves the issue of personal integrity. One of the great teachings of the Bible is that we are to be blameless and upright. This is the Bible’s description of Job and I pray that it is God’s view of my family and I. Of course, none of us ever achieve the level of holiness we need, but the process of sanctification is an on-going effort to achieve as much holiness as possible.
Part of this effort is that of maintaining a Christian walk that matches the word coming from your mouth. Whether you agree or disagree with my initial premise, the point is that if you determine your moral position is XY, any time you deviate from that position, you run the risk of other Christians or unbelievers interpreting your actions in a different fashion. If instead of doing XY, you do XZ, an unbeliever, who has no spiritual insight because of his unbelief, could logically conclude that if he does ZZ this is acceptable.
To bring this discussion into real terms, long ago my family and I determined not to watch R rated movies. We disposed of all VHS tapes we owned that were R rated and we have not paid to visit a movie theater and watch an R rated movie for many, many years. Now, here comes The Passion of the Christ and it is R rated.
One might certainly argue that the R rating has been placed upon the movie due to the realistic nature of the scenes where Christ is beaten and scourged. This is certainly true (as I understand the movie). So, since it is only a picture of the “real thing,” it is arguable that this is a “good” R rating and one should be able to view the film.
But, will an unbeliever understand this distinction? I think not. For example, to him a movie rated R due to strong language might be considered a “good” R because he works in an environment where such language is used all of the time. In fact, he uses it himself. Thus, such a movie only depicts the “real thing” and the unbeliever feels comfortable going to the film. He sees no difference between his actions and my actions IF I were to attend The Passion.
You can see how you can carry the above logic to extremes in a given situation and move from R ratings for strong language to R ratings for violence or sex. So, since I cannot justify allowing such an argument to be presented, the solution is to maintain my moral position of not attending R rated movies, regardless of their actual content.
67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands,
28 And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 30 Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
35 Then they crucified Him,
These are the verses from Matthew that describe the violent events of the Crucifixion. These are the events found in the movie. If you were to review Mark, Luke, and John, you would find their descriptions of these events very similar to those of Matthew’s.
I believe that God wrote the Bible exactly as we have it so that we would learn to believe in Jesus and to exercise our faith for His kingdom. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:7: For we walk by faith, not by sight. This is the goal, to walk solely by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, John’s language is that we are to abide in Christ.
In His High Priestly prayer of John 17, Jesus prays for us.
20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
Paul writes that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17). We need to hear the Word of God and understand that we come to faith based upon its power. What is more, we need to hear the Word of God to build our faith and move closer to God in our daily walk with Him. This power of faith does not come from the Cross as important as this event is to our salvation. The Scriptures do not record anyone being saved because of the Cross. In fact, with the exception of Christ’s mother, some of the other ladies, and the Apostle John, everyone else fled.
What is important for the Christian is that Jesus did not stay in the grave – He arose from the dead. He conquered death.
3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
So, at a theological level I have two issues with the movie. The movie focuses upon the suffering of Jesus prior to the Crucifixion. God did not view this as particularly important. The verses at the beginning of this section tell us of the event, but God did not deem the details to be necessary for our salvation or spiritual growth. So, if God did not consider this important, why should I violate my moral code to view man’s attempt to duplicate the event?
Secondly, the Cross, as important as it is, is not the heart of the Christian faith. The Resurrection is the heart. Jesus died and arose from the grave. This is the key of salvation. And, the emphasis and importance of this key is missing in the movie.
This one belongs more to my wife than myself, although the more I think about it, the more I have to agree with her. Jesus is very special to us. God is God and no one else is. Although we are not bound by the Ten Commandments as a law, they still represent a statement of God’s character. As such, there is an emotional discomfort at watching a human portray God.
Certainly, we feel this way about a large number of Hollywood productions which portray God in an ungodly fashion. The movies and television poke fun at God and make Him to be like us and display “evil” traits. Obviously, this is wrong. However, what about The Passion and the other stories of Christ? Some of these are good movies – the older Greatest Story Ever Told or the more modern Gospel of John. These are fine films, but, there is still a human portraying God.
This makes us uneasy. Should God be portrayed in film in any manner? Is this an idol? And, if not, is it still going too far? When the Jews write their Scriptures, they have rituals when writing the Hebrew name of God we translate as Lord or Jehovah and they will not write the Hebrew name of God that we translate “God.” – Hebrew elohim. They adopt this position because they are afraid of blaspheming the name of God, of violating the Third Commandment, Exodus 20: 7 "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
While I do not believe writing or speaking the names found in the Bible are taking the name of God in vain (in proper usage), maybe my wife is correct about being concerned about someone actually portraying Jesus / God. In any event, she feels reasonably strong about this and it adds to the reasons we will not see the movie.
I understand that many do not have the same views I do and will see the movie. That is between them and God. I have nothing to do with it. I do not hold it against any one for going to the movie. Most of my church friends have or plan on seeing the movie.
The greatest part about the movie is not the movie. The greatest contribution it is making to the church is that everyone is talking about it. This provides an amazing number of opportunities for believers to witness to the power of Christ in their personal lives. This is especially true of people who are difficult to witness to. Everyone wants to ask you if you are going to see the movie. This is a wonderful opening to jump in with the Gospel. For this, I thank Mel Gibson. Whether he intended it or not, we have a great chance of witnessing and evangelizing because everyone wants to talk about The Passion.
Take advantage of it. Be ready to witness. Take Peter’s advice to heart. Have a tract in your back pocket or purse and be always ready to talk about Jesus.
1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;