Considering I'm in Disney World today with my family on a trip, I thought I'd preach a sermon this morning in my own way. First things are first: everyone is entitled to their opinion and certainly their convictions. That out of the way, it's almost unbelievable at the hypocrisy and outright privileged talk coming out of many Christian camps about this movie. It's being criticized by some as tools of Satan to confuse the people. Some are railing against its producers. Others are pointing out the Biblical inaccuracies in the movie and especially those remembered from the Bible series. All that said, I'd like to address a few of these points.
1. I won't watch it because it is changing what the Bible says.
I'm seeing a lot of this statement. I'll shoot straight with you. I'm not happy necessarily that some Bible stories are being represented in a different way than how the scriptures describe them. I didn't like it in the Bible miniseries. I saw the inaccuracies there for sure. However, this is Hollywood. Have you ever watched any other movies based on a previously released book? It was different right? Unfortunately, Hollywood is known for taking a story and adding to it or removing from it parts and pieces in order to make the story pop and come alive in a short time frame. Now if there was ever any book that this shouldn't happen with, I would agree that it should be the Bible. However, it is Hollywood and I'm not sure what we, the church expected.
That said, I've talked with a few people who have seen the movie as I admittedly am ignorant having not seen the movie (I'll be happy to do a full retraction if after seeing it I disagree with my assessments). The people I have talked to say emphatically, the message of Christ is not changed at all. People are seen weeping at His death and resurrection. And for me, that's the more important aspect. People are meeting Jesus! Whether they are accepting Him as Savior or not, I don't know. But people are meeting Jesus. They are coming out in droves to do so. And they're buying high priced movie tickets to meet Him on top of that. Maybe some of the angst from some churches and pastors is that people won't come to our churches and hear us preach about Him for free . . .
Let's be honest. When the church refuses to watch this movie or support it, we are emphatically closing off a door of open dialogue that the lost are opening with us. For years I've heard preachers preach that people just aren't interested in the church anymore. People supposedly just do not care about Jesus anymore. We'll preach that with a defeatist and survivor-based attitude. And then when the masses decide they are interested in Jesus, the church starts preaching that the Jesus they're interested in is the wrong one so we still can't find common ground. With this mentality, it's no wonder the American church is in decline. The lost can't win with us. On one hand they're not interested in Jesus which is why they're not coming to church. On the other hand, those that are interested in Jesus are interested for the wrong reasons or "don't want the truth." The church comes across extremely hypocritical in these stances.
Here's why. The church has had its fair share of history of misinterpreting, reinterpreting, and flat out not interpreting scripture throughout its history as much if not worse than the representations nixed and changed in the "Son of God" movie. Remember that time when we would turn women out of the church if they cut their hair or wore makeup? Remember when we turned women out of the church if they wore jewelry? Remember that time we preached about how women should be silent in the church, but were secretly thankful they weren't because if they would have been, the church would have had no Sunday School teachers, singers, musicians, choir leaders, and tithe payers? Remember when the church bought into "88 Reasons Jesus is Coming Back in 1988"? Remember when we all went gaga over TBN, gold dust, and the proverbial ships / ponzi schemes that were supposed to sail in and help us usher Christianity throughout the country? Hey, I'm just getting started. Remember that time when the church refused praise and worship music because it was the devil's music? Remember when women started wearing pants? Alright I'll stop.
My point is simply that the church has historically messed up the scriptures and unfortunately, more times than not, not only were the scriptures messed up, but we completely missed the heart of the Gospel. The church then has committed the worse sin, that is, far worse than retooling a Bible story. The church, without even realizing it, interpreted and re-imagined scripture itself and in doing so, not only changed the story, but reduced its message to pebbles in a rock field. We've got to be better than this. Again, I don't like some of the changes introduced in the movie and I didn't like them in the miniseries. But one thing is for sure, the floodgates have been open to having open dialogue about Jesus Christ, who He is, what He did, and how to know Him. The church should be celebrating this not shunning it. We should be reaching out for the opportunity to be seen and heard. We should looking for ways to interact with the message of the movie. Share how it deviated from the scriptures and then drive home the message. In a world where the new buzz word is "tolerance" and in a time where the Christian church sure seems to want it and decry the lack of towards itself, those wanting tolerance should start by giving it.
2. The Downey's are New Age People
This one I love. People, Christians even, are boycotting this movie because the Downey's are possibly influenced by New Age thinking. This is almost too good. So Christians won't watch this movie because of the Downey's and their terrible lifestyle, but you'll watch violence, murder, and sexual affairs on Lifetime, CBS's CSI, NBC's Law & Order, and the list goes on. Now you may be one of those who doesn't watch TV at all and that's great. My point however is that if you look close enough, you'll find you're already watching TV shows, listening to music, enjoying preaching, buying products, and enjoying life on a day to day basis by supporting people who are certainly as New Age as the Downey's, or worse, evil, proudly rebellious, and openly sinful.
I read the popular blog post going around right now digging into Roma Downey's past. People are pointing out how in 2002 she went on a psychic show that was being hyped by Lifetime television, (the same network you probably watch to cry about the love stories), and talked to her dead mother. The blog post talks about Saul and the witch who conjured up Samuel and how this was forbidden as sin and witchcraft. And they would be correct. The problem comes with the fact this was 12 years ago. Things and people can change since then. And the other problem is that in reading the story about Saul and Samuel, the author seems to miss a very glaring scripture where Samuel tells Saul that rebellion is the sin of witchcraft. So let's hope today that preachers, teachers, and other Christians who plan on sharing the Gospel message, (their interpretation obviously), haven't rebelled against proper authority in the last 12 years. If you have, then your transgression is of the same substance.
Here's the truth of the matter. I don't know the Downey's. Everything I read about them points to their Roman Catholic faith. Roman Catholics do believe differently than many Protestant Christians, but the foundation is the same. I'm not going to judge whether they're Christian or not. I do however wonder why churches didn't go crazy about the Passion of Christ and boycott it considering that Mel Gibson was the producer and he had plenty of baggage including a whole film history of raunchiness as proof. But for some reason, the church as a whole overlooked him and focused on the message. We've got that opportunity again, but for some reason, many would prefer to stay in the shadows. They'd prefer to keep the church a select elite club that preaches about spreading its ranks and membership, but secretly hopes no one takes their seat, changes their thinking, or challenges their own way of living. It's pure hypocritical and we need to recognize it.
On top of all that, I believe in being congruent across the board. Do you like Rick Warren's books? If you do, but don't like the Downey's, then you should probably get rid of all of those books. Warren rented out many movie screens to show the movie and packed as many as he could into see it and prepared to minister to those who watched it. But if you don't like the Downey's and you want to boycott them, you should probably add Warren to your list. Do you like the music of Michael W. Smith? I do. He's my favorite artist of all time in any musical genre. He's friends with the Downey's and vouches for their faith in Christ. He's promoting the movie. So if you boycott the Downey's, don't plan on singing "Friends are friends forever," at this year's graduation party. Do you like T.D. Jakes? I do. I wish I could preach like him sometimes. He can surely put the message out. He's pushing this movie and a relationship with the Downey's. So, you'll have to find another TV preacher to steal sermons from . . . Here's one. Do you like Sarah Palin? I do! I voted for her and McCain in '08 and would gladly vote for her again. I saw her just a few months ago at a book signing. Now get ready, because I know many Christians support her and would vote for her in an instant against our current administration and possibly the one to come. But ready yourself. She too claims a friendship with the Downey's and is supporting this movie. So let's be straight across the board here. If these New Age wannabe Christians are distorting the message of Christ and leading people astray, then go ahead and spend the rest of this weekend throwing away your Smitty tapes, Jakes' sermons, Warren books, and go peel the Palin bumper sticker off your beat up Ford for crying out loud.
Now that the sarcasm, yet truth, is out of the way, I'm with the concerned in many ways. I would certainly prefer those putting out the message of Christ remain completely in tact with the scriptures. I would prefer for Christians to stay away from certain things and refuse to interact and believe with certain ideas. That said, everyone is not going to do that. We can choose to put our head in the sand at anything and everything we don't produce ourselves, or we can look for opportunities to share Jesus, interact with culture, and dialogue about the greatest story ever told. People are dying and going to hell. I just got to think the Lord is more concerned about our lack of concern about that than whether or not the Downey's may listen to Tony Richards' self help CDs in their cars on the way to work.
3. We've got to stand up for the truth.
I'd agree with that statement, but in order to have a valid argument, one needs to know what he's arguing about and against. In high school, I was involved in the Debate team. It was one of the highlights of high school career. We used to participate in what was called the "Model UN." In this exercise, we would all be assigned a foreign country and a partner. It was up to the two partners to research the country and to plan out a path to benefit it, protect it, and/or enhance it. We'd all go to our "Model UN" and present our arguments to the judges, or the "UN," and other "countries" would argue against us in hopes of getting more than what they wanted. I believe my country one year was the country of Chad. I know, some of you right now are looking that up to see if there really is a country of Chad. There is. Trust me. I didn't know anything about Chad, and I can't say that I know a lot today. But I knew that if I wanted to win the debate, I had to learn everything I can about it.
For some reason, that method has been destroyed by the church. We won't the lost to come to us, hear our message, change their lives, all the while, we remain clear and clean from their sinful ways and understandings. We can't help them, because we refuse to try and see the world through their eyes. We can't understand where they're coming from, because we refuse to try and see. We refuse to remember that someone did this for us. We prefer sinners to already want to change and then to stumble in our churches on their own volition so that we can pray them through, tell them what not to do anymore, and tell them to give an offering and keep coming to church to go to Heaven. How's that working? Is this what Jesus did? Emphatically NO! Most of Jesus' ministry was done outside the city gates and by going from town to town. He constantly "dirtied" himself by eating with sinners. He protected the woman caught in adultery. He took time with the woman at the well. He saw something in Mary Magdalene. He was alright with Mary and Martha being irate and upset at Him for not coming to rescue Lazarus from death. He was alright when Peter doubted. He didn't stone Nicodemus when he came to him in the cover of night out of shame and fear. Where is this attitude among the church and Christians today? I'd say its missing more times than not and as a result more and more people are dying and going to hell why we keep going to church and praying for the Lord to save the lost through our churches.
Unfortunately, when you hear churches talk about the truth, they usually talk about doctrine. We can't war against hell because we're too busy warring against one another. We'd rather fight another denomination instead of hell any day. The church loves to corner ourselves in our denominational holes and point fingers at each other about our doctrines. The truth is hypocrisy exists in every church denomination. We all have our quirks and my real feeling is that one day we're going to get to Heaven and Jesus is going to tell us that in many ways, we were ALL wrong and if His grace hadn't been sufficient, we'd all have been in trouble.
If we want to talk about the truth, here's the truth. Jesus is coming back. America is closing more churches than opening them. Our society is decaying. The Gospel message is under attack. The church can decide to be counter-cultural in these areas and seek to win the lost, disciple those won, and pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to release them again to start the process over until revival hits and sweeps across our cities, states, and ultimately our nation. Or, the church can sit back on its interpreted truths remaining largely unaffected by the lost and hope to make it to Heaven. Matthew 25 doesn't paint a pretty picture in that regard when Jesus speaks about the sheep and goats and the dividing line among them being those who took action to help those in need, to reach out to the broken, and to get messy with the hurting.
Ultimately, I can't tell anyone what to do. If you have a true conviction about watching this movie, then you honestly should avoid it. The Lord gives us all convictions and mine are different than yours. In these areas, we're called to be obedient more so than anything. I don't mean to rail against those who don't watch the movie or just don't want to see it. More so than anything, my argument is with those who refuse to even slightly recognize the opportunity that is being afforded the church in these dark times. Jesus Christ is being talked about. You and I as Christians are supposed to know Him. We read about Him. We've accepted Him into our lives. Who better to fix the inaccuracies that the movie portrays? Who better to help guide and direct the watchers of the movie after it's over? What a great avenue right now to be able to share Christ, talk about Him, and point out scripture about Him!
So go see the movie if you can. Invite someone that is lost to go with you. Maybe it's a neighbor. Maybe it's a friend. Maybe it's a spouse. Wives, make your husband give you a date night. Let him pick the restaurant and you pick the movie. Then invite him to go to church with you or to talk with your pastor about what he saw. Let's use this as a tool of evangelism much like we did the Passion of Christ. Let's focus on what we have in common more so than what separates us. Let's do the work of Christ in these last hours before His return.