Jesus at the Movies

What if Jesus went to the movies? Would He be an extra butter type of guy? Skittles or Starburst? Reese’s Pieces or Peanut M&M’s? Coke or an Icee?

More importantly, how would He view movies? 

Among Christians, the verdict varies extensively. To some, Jesus would have had a difficult time watching rated G movies because of the subliminal messages. To others, Jesus would watch anything that isn’t rated R unless it’s about Himself, of course. In other circles, we find Christians that are against an inch of skin being shown but still enjoy watching people get shot and blown up; I’ve never quite understood that crowd.

For the most part, the church seems to distance themselves from much of pop culture due to fear of “getting dirty” or being influenced by sin.

Imagine if Jesus would’ve walked into the 1st century speaking American English, wearing 501’s and a Ramones t-shirt, rocking Chuck Taylor’s and hipster glasses while listening  to Mumford and Sons on His white iPhone 5s through His earbuds; wouldn’t He be just a little out of place?

Jesus and Paul Engaged Culture

In the opening chapter of John’s gospel, we see that in order for Jesus to reach out to sinners, He became like them in both nature and appearance (John 1:14). We also see in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus was quite familiar with the culture of His day. He used the popular sayings [i. e. “you have heard it said”] and language as a means to evangelize (Matthew 5:21, 27, 38, 43). This is why when Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:14-18, He said that His people are in the world though not of it.

Similar to Jesus, Paul also was extremely familiar with the culture of His day and used it as a means to identify with the people. Luke describes for us in Acts 17:22-34 a time in which Paul addresses a group in Athens. In his message to the people, Paul 1) quotes the rockstar of their day, 2) shows how through idolizing this rockstar, they’re life is void and meaningless, and 3) how Jesus fills this very void. Just like Jesus, in order for Paul to reach the people, he became like the people.

So this begs the question: how would Jesus view and use the movies of our day to reach the people of our day?

Engaging Movies with Jesus

Paul encouraged the Christians in Collasae to do everything in their daily lives for God (Col 3:17). We, too, are to do as such; this includes watching movies. When seeking to watch a movie through the lens of Jesus, there are two questions to ask:

  1. How and where is Jesus in this?
  2. If He isn’t, how and where is Jesus missing?

By asking these two questions while watching a movie (or watching tv, listening to music, reading a book, etc), we are able to identify how the movie is either a portrait of a redemption with shadows of Jesus or a storyline void of any lasting joy, hope, and meaning. Here are two examples:

Harry Potter and Jesus

Though in the past, the book and film series has received much criticism from the church due to the story’s witchcraft and wizardry, J. K. Rowling’s series is  actually a shadow of God’s story of redemption. Harry is portrayed as a Christ-like archetype who takes on the Satan-like archetype Voldemort. In the end, Harry conquers his enemy (Voldemort) and his army of darkness by dying and resurrecting from the dead. Aside from these few key and striking similarities between Harry Potter and God’s story of redemption, there are many more throughout the series that identify the books and movies with the bible.

Regardless of the witchcraft and wizardry, we as Christians must not neglect to use one of the biggest and most famous book and movie series of all time for the sake of the gospel. There’s a reason why so many people hold these books and movies near and dear to their heart; the hero of the story is a shadow of Jesus, the maker and satisfier of their heart.

Gatsby Missing Jesus

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, which was recently adapted as a film, is a key portrayal of life’s meaninglessness and hopelessness apart from true and lasting love. Gatsby is a man with a culturally-deemed picture-perfect lifestyle, owning anything and everything he wants and yet is still missing something (or someone). He seeks joy, companionship, comfort and love in the long, lost love of his life, Daisy. In the end, Gatsby never does find fulfillment through his relationship with Daisy and unfortunately loses her and his life to the cause.

Many people resonate with The Great Gatsby because, like Gatsby, their lives are left hopeless and void of meaning a part from true and lasting love. Similar to him, people seek fulfillment in things and people other than Jesus only to be left dry, empty, and depressed; Jesus is the only person that can truly satisfy one’s soul.

Concluding Thoughts

Don’t just watch movies; view them through the lens of Jesus, engaging both His heart and mind to connect with not only the people who made the films but also the people who find glimpses of joy and hope in watching them.

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The Church: She Needs You

So you don’t think you need to go to church? You’re right. Going to church is pointless if that’s all that you do. Allow me to explain.

Think of your own home for a moment. Dad, mom, perhaps a few siblings. When there are things that need to get done around the house, who does them? Do dad and mom do all the work while you and your siblings sit around the house watching?

Growing up in my house, we each had assigned tasks and areas of our house that we needed to keep maintained. Dad typically handled outdoor things such as the lawn and garden, washing cars, etc. As I grew up, I began joining him in those tasks. Mom mainly focused on mopping, laundry, cooking, etc. Over the years, my sister and I would take turns cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming the house. And dishes? At some point during the week, everyone would get their hands wet.

Everyone played a part in maintaining our home because each of us lived there.

For some reason, this mentality seems to get lost when we walk out our front doors and into our church buildings every Sunday morning. We approach church the same way that people approach their favorite sports teams: we watch them compete for the win, but we don’t ourselves participate.

The Church and the Lakers: Two Different Things

Since before Kobe Bryant entered the league, I’ve been a die-hard Lakers fan. Each year, I’ve followed them extensively, watching every single second of every single game. I watch all the post-game interviews, read all the articles and blog posts, and memorize all of the players stats. In all of this, I’ve never actually helped them win a game. I wasn’t involved in the blockbuster trade for Dwight Howard. I didn’t hire Mike D’Antoni as the new head coach. I’ve never helped Kobe work on his jump shot (contrary to popular belief). I watch the Lakers, but I don’t play for them.

Believe it or not, church and the Lakers are two different things.

The Body of Christ

In one of his letters to the church in Corinth, Paul likens the church to a body: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). In this passage, Paul describes each Christian as being an individual body part of the body of Christ. One person, for example, is a foot, another is a hand, someone else is an eye, and so on. If a foot were missing from the body, the body could not move as adequately as it could if the foot were still attached. Sure, the body will go on functioning but not as well as it could. Each body part needs the others for the entire body to fully function in the manner in which it was created to.

When Jesus calls you to Himself, you are now a member of the body of Christ, the household and kingdom of God.

Which Part Are You?

What gifts do you have? What’s your talent? What passions do you have? What moves your heart? What do you enjoy doing? Why not use that gift, talent, passion, and/or heart for the advance of the gospel and the glory of God’s Name through the church?

The bottom line is that Jesus calls you to be a part of the church. He doesn’t call you to simply go to church and watch the pastoral staff serve like you watch the Lakers compete; Jesus actually wants you ( He wants YOU!) to be a part of spreading the gospel and advancing His kingdom here on earth.

Sure, the church has her problems. Yes, you’re likely to get burned by someone. But those are the people that Jesus calls to Himself: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Instead of running from the problems of the church, we are called to face them, using our gifts, talents, and passions to advance the gospel through the church:

  • the church has problems; help fix them
  • the church has holes; help fill them
  • the church is filled with liars; help keep ’em honest
  • the church is unfriendly; help bring a smile
  • the church is messed up; help her
  • the church is hurting; help comfort her
  • the church is divisive; help unite her
  • the church is out of touch with culture; help her engage the gospel in culture
  • the church burns people; so you’re gonna burn her?
  • the church is judgmental; is that a judgement?
  • the church is intolerant; can you tolerate that?
  • the church is filled with hypocrites; you fit right in

God has given you some sort of gift, talent, or passion to use so that you can bless the church and serve a dying world. My mother would’ve slapped me if I refused to do my chores in our household. You are a valuable member of God’s household; do your chores. We are called by Jesus to participate in the life the church. But the Lakers? Let’s just let Kobe do his thing…

The church is filled with broken, sick, hurting, people; dear Christian, you fit right in.