I love a good movie. I’m too cheap to pay full price to see them in theaters most of the time (especially with 3 kids), but I pile new releases up in my Netflix queue as fast as the trailers release. And while it is easy to get discouraged by the increase in language, crudity, violence, and skin in movies today, that dark background makes the good ones shine all the brighter.
Christian film companies like Pure Flix and Affirm Films are making wonderful headway in Hollywood’s niche Christian market with films like God is Not Dead and War Room. Yet when I go to one of those films, I expect to be spiritually moved. That is why it strikes me even harder when a secular film company puts out a movie with a deep spiritual message.
I remember watching Les Miserables and being stunned by the kindness of Bishop Myriel when he extends grace to and angry, bitter Jean Valjean after the released convict steals his silver. Not only does he fail to press charges with the police, he refuses to take back his belongings. In fact, putting Jesus’s teaching of turning the other cheek to marvelous effect, he offers Jean Valjean his silver candlesticks as well. My selfish heart was powerfully convicted. Would I have done the same? No. I might have been gracious enough not to press charges, but I would have wanted my belongings back. Yet what a powerful impact the Bishop’s act of kindness had on that bitter man. Jean Valjean turns his life around, becomes a respected man of business, and then goes out of his way to provide for an orphaned girl. So many lives affected by that one act of kindness! That lesson has lingered in my heart for years.
Then there was an extraterrestrial movie called Signs. Anyone remember this one from back in 2002? Who would expect to find a spiritual message embedded in a story about an alien invasion? Nonetheless, that is exactly what I found. The central character, played by Mel Gibson, is a minister named Graham Hess who is experiencing a crises of faith after losing his wife in what appeared to be a senseless automobile accident. Why would a loving God allow such tragedy to befall his faithful children? Graham falls away from his faith and struggles to keep his family together in his grief. All he can see are the bad things that God never fixed in his life. His son has asthma. His daughter can never seem to put away the glasses of water she fills then leaves sitting around without finishing. And his wife’s last words were not of love or sorrow but some nonsense about encouraging his brother, a baseball player, to “swing away.” Where is God is this mess of a life? And if things weren’t bad enough, now there are unexplained crop circles and soon it becomes clear that a hostile force of aliens is attacking them. As the epic battle takes place, all the pieces of the minister’s broken life fall into place, showing that God had a plan all along. That instead of asking why God allows bad things to happen, we should be asking, how will God take this tragedy and use it for good? In the end, the asthma saves Graham’s son’s life, his brother swings away, smashing the half-filled glasses of water to scald the aliens who react to water as if it were acid. As God’s plan is revealed, Graham’s faith is restored. I only saw the movie once, but I’ve never forgotten it’s message.
My most recent experience with movies of this nature was a WWII war story called Hacksaw Ridge. I watched it last week. Perhaps you’ve seen it. If not, I highly recommend it. It is rated R, and as a rule, I avoid rated R movies. However, I made an exception for this one when I realized that it was a true story of a man who held firm to his faith and convictions against great odds. There is a little bit of language, but not more than you would find in a PG rated movie. The R rating comes from the bloodiness of war. If you are squeamish, you might have to look away at times, but I would still recommend this film.
It is the story of Desmond Doss who enlists in the army as a conscientious objector, intending to be a medic. He excels in the physical training of boot camp, but when it comes time for rifle instruction, he refuses to touch the weapon. His commanding officers as well as his compatriots do everything they can to intimidate him into leaving. Physical labor, humiliation, they even go so far as to court martial him for disobeying the direct order to fire a weapon. How can his fellow soldiers rely on him if he won’t bear arms to protect them? Despite the horror they put him through, he refuses to quit the army and refuses to sacrifice his convictions. He eventually earns his way into the field and faces the most impossible battle of the war – taking Hacksaw Ridge. Hundreds of men have already died trying. I don’t want to give away the heart of the story, but I will tell you that because of his faith and determination to serve God by serving the men around him, he single-handedly accomplishes the impossible. One man’s faith changed an entire unit of men, saved countless lives, and turned hardened soldiers into men who waited on the Lord before rushing into battle.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that one person can’t make a real difference in the world. But this movie made it clear to me that one person who depends on God can change everything.
- What movies have you seen that impacted you with a spiritual message that you weren’t expecting?
- Have you seen any of these three movies? How did they impact you?