In my last post, I shared the first way biblical truth always shows up in the movies we watch. Yet there are two more ways that we should notice as well. Each of these should regularly remind us of the Gospel in our own lives and give us “common ground” from which to discuss biblical truth with those around us.
2. All Stories Contain the Biblical Narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption. Genesis to Revelation can be summed up as a three-chapter story. Creation—things are as they should be and good. Fall—things go bad. Redemption—things are put right again.
Other great stories mirror this same storyline. Valjean is a good man who is imprisoned for simply stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s child. His time in prison and experiences just after his release hardens him and illustrate his fall. Yet he is redeemed and goes on to redeem many others.
Donovan is living in a time when something good (peace) has been shattered by a great fall (the evils of war). His battle is to redeem a small part of this brokenness by negotiating the release of American POWs.
Concussion illustrates how a good game enjoyed by many can “fall” when it becomes the ultimate, elevated even over the health of its players. Omalu’s work brings a partial redemption as the work he does leads to the acknowledgment of a causal link between concussions and mental disease/premature death and steps taken to address this reality.
In all three cases we can’t help but recognize that things have gone wrong and are not as they should be (fall) and desire things be made right again (redemption). This is the biblical story—the heart of the Gospel we immediately recognize. People from all religious and non/anti-religious persuasions flock to plays and movies and have the exact same reaction, because all understand the Truth of this story (Creation-Fall-Redemption), again as Romans 1 and Ecc. 3 indicate.
(As a side note, notice that when this storyline is not followed and the movie ends without redemption we don’t like it. We complain that the story was left “unresolved” and we have an uneasy feeling, the same as when a musical composition does not complete a progression. This is a further indication of our soul’s “fine-tuning” for the Gospel.)
3. All Stories Have A Savior We Admire. As mentioned above, Valjean has a redemptive influence on many others throughout Les Mis. Donovan’s mission is to redeem the American POWs, and in the process also has a redemptive influence on others who admire his courage and self-sacrifice. Omalu has a similar effect on colleagues and the families of the deceased players.
Here again we see the Gospel—the longing for a Savior—encoded in movie after movie. All people have a deep longing for someone who has the ability (morally, spiritually, relationally) to step in and do for others what they cannot do for themselves. Everyone also realizes that the savior figure is not compelled to do so, yet freely chooses (at multiple junctures) to sacrifice much to intercede. In short, we all know something is wrong and we need Someone Else to come fix it. Romans 1 and Ecc. 3.
So the next time you watch a movie (or play or TV show), try to identify these themes as a way to remind yourself of the Gospel—that we have a Savior who has Redeemed our Fall and is making us into a New Creation.
Also realize that we have the great privilege of doing what we cheer Valjean, Donovan and Omalu on in doing: being agents of redemption for others. This will take many forms, including sharing the Gospel with others, standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, righting wrongs that are in our power to rectify, and speaking the truth when it needs to be heard, even at great personal and professional risk, because it is the right thing to do.
It should also be a great encouragement that these truths are deeply implanted in the hearts of our parents, siblings, children, friends and coworkers. We often find walls come up when we try to share the Gospel with others by directly quoting Scripture. But knowing those same truths are contained in the movie they saw this past weekend or the TV show they watched last night provide great opportunities to discuss these truths in ways they can more easily grasp.
In fact, this is precisely what Jesus did. He had the “Old Testament” available to him. In all his conversations he could have simply quoted Old Testament passages, and been justified in doing so. But instead, he often told stories his listeners would be more familiar with. For instance, when talking to farmers he told a story about someone going out to plant crops (Matthew 13:1-8).
Moviemakers and playwrights in our culture are doing this for us! We just need to recognize these themes and draw them out in our conversations. In doing so we can leverage the “eternity in the heart” of each person, understood by them in their reaction to the men and women in movies and plays who do the right thing, illustrate the reality of the fall and the possibility of redemption, and are pointers to the ultimate Savior who sacrificed so much to Redeem us and give us “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)!
Until next week, grace and peace.
(P.S. For more reading on this I suggest Faith, Film and Philosophy: Big Ideas on the Big Screen, edited by R. Douglas Geivett and James S. Spiegel and, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment by Brian Godawa.)