What We've Forgotten
A Lesson For The Church From “The Passion Of The Christ" - Part 1
'From responses like this, it is clear that people no longer hold to a Judeo-Christian worldview. As Christians, we can no longer assume that people around us understand the assumptions that underlie our faith.'
Rarely does a movie appear that totally defies categorization. Rarely do we see a new film that leaves the critics completely divided and has people talking about it a year before it's release.
It's even more rare when a movie does all of that, despite the fact that it uses obscure languages and centres on a religious theme.
Yet, that's exactly what has happened with the phenomenal success of Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ'. The 'passion' of the title has nothing to do with the kind of erotic or romantic passion Hollywood normally dishes out. It reflects the Greek word 'Pasco', which means to 'suffer with.'
People leave the darkened cinema with very different feelings and opinions. Art has always had the ability to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Whatever your view of the movie, there are several important lessons we can draw from it as Christians and as Christian leaders.
The first is this: there is a chronic need for the sharing of a Christian worldview in our society.
One of the most common responses to the movie, among secular viewers, is 'Why?' It's a question reflected in the cover story of a recent TIME Magazine: 'Why did Jesus have to die?'
From responses like this, it is clear that people no longer hold to a Judeo-Christian worldview. As Christians, we can no longer assume that people around us understand the assumptions that underlie our faith.
A survey recently undertaken by the Barna Research Group found that only 4% of Americans hold to a Christian worldview and let it affect their decisions. It is safe to assume that the figure would be even less in our more overtly secularised European society.
You cannot fundamentally change people's behaviour until have shifted their worldview, their sense of reality, the framework through which they interpret the world around them.
Christianity is much more than a series of proof texts that we repeat like worn out clichés. It offers an entire framework through which we can explain the fundamental questions of the human psyche: 'Who am I? Where did I come from? Where might I be headed?'
The Bible's worldview is based on four great themes:
Creation: We were made noble beings, created in the image of God, designed for greatness and goodness.
Fall: Submitting to Satan's deception, we abused our God given right to choose and gave control of our destiny to Satan. We dishonoured God, selling out to selfishness.
Redemption: Instead of abandoning or destroying us, as we deserved, God redeemed us, sending Christ to die for us so that he could buy back for us all the rights we lost in the Garden.
Restoration (End): One day, when the gospel has been proclaimed through the whole earth, Jesus will return in great glory, as judge and rewarder of those who belong to him.
There are four facts about our society that show us just how far Europe - the West in general - has moved away from a Christian worldview.
For one thing, we have replaced honourable achievement with celebrity. Today, a celebrity is little more than 'someone well known for being well known.'
In this, we have forgotten the fact of our creation and the reason for it. We were not made to honour ourselves, but to honour God!
We should think about where this culture of celebrity is leading us.
Celebrity distorts reality: it makes small things seem big. Hollywood, California is a small place - only about 210,000 people live there - yet it influences attitudes around the world, through the power of celebrity.
Satan has used this ploy to deceive people from the beginning. With Eve, he made the tree seem bigger and God's command seem smaller. He whispered in her ear, 'Has God said...? Come on, Eve, you don't think he really means that. I mean, he's just speaking figuratively, he doesn't mean you should never eat it, just don't get greedy, that's all...'
Then, says Genesis, Eve 'saw the tree that it was good for food.' The tree hadn't changed at all - it was the same tree she'd seen many times before. It was her image of the tree that had changed and sin began in her imagination. She allowed her perception to be distorted, so that big things became small and trivial things became important.
Satan denigrates things we should elevate and he celebrates things we should eliminate. Deception takes root whenever we lose our sense of proportion.
© Mal Fletcher 2004
Photos by Philippe Antonello. © 2003 Icon Distribution Inc. All Rights Reserved.