FIRST-PERSON: A worldly view of Christians

by Phil Boatwright, posted Thursday, January 15, 2015 (3 years ago)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) -- I was at a screening for an upcoming movie not long ago when the film "The Last Temptation of Christ" came up in conversation between a group of us critics. As some of you may recall, that picture caused a stir among the Christian community in 1988 as some had heard it was a blasphemous rendition of the story of Christ.

One of my critic cronies mentioned that in 1988 he was on a city board that considered which films could play in Kansas City. He had received hate mail, even death threats, he said, for allowing the film to open. His comment to us: "That's your good Christians for you."

Before being allowed to react to the intolerant statement, the movie screening began. A mix of anger and sadness ran through me as I tried to concentrate on the screening.

Nowhere in the teachings of Jesus are we Christians allowed to show contempt for unbelievers. We were never instructed by our Savior to harm others. And in the past year, has this man not witnessed powerful examples of Christian doctors nearly dying while fending off a devastating disease in another land?

How sad that the road this guy travels on never led him to come across someone living for Jesus. As a movie critic, has he never been moved by true examples of Christian disciples in any number of films? Here are a few movies to consider:

"Inn of the Sixth Happiness"

The film contains one of the most moving conversions this reviewer has seen in the movies, as we witness change in a man's life due to a courageous missionary. It reminds the Christian viewer that our lifestyle does greatly affect others.

"Stars in My Crown"

This is one of my favorite films, with Joel McCrea as a 1800s minister dealing with the problems of his church members. A gentle, episodic tale for the whole family, it is another fine film example of how our daily walk can eventually affect the lives of others.

"Amish Grace"

This film concerns an Amish woman dealing with the loss of her child after a crazed outsider takes vengeance on God by killing children. It gives us a stunning example of a forgiveness that can only be mustered by God's grace and Christ's sacrifice.

"Dead Man Walking"

In this true story, we see average people dealing with terror, loss, guilt and forgiveness. Although I would hesitate to recommend the film due to the R material, the strong message of the courage and strength found in true followers of Jesus overrides the movie's brutality, at least for me. Several ending scenes focus on the outcome of a life dedicated to spiritual truths. We see how a hurting heart can be changed when others offer him the greatest gift -- love.

"Tender Mercies"

Robert Duvall plays a country singer on the skids until, with the help of a religious widow and her son, he turns his life around. A country minister is depicted with a genuineness seldom seen in the movies.

The list of motion pictures with positive portraits of the faithful is extensive, which begs the question, "Why does that reviewer prefer to dwell on the hypocrisy of churchgoers as if that foible could only be found in our community?"

But the most important questions that haunt me after hearing "That's your good Christian for you!" are "How does he see me?" and "Is my witness so shallow that I fail to represent my redeemer?"

There's a fine line we must walk when associating with nonbelievers. While we must respect their views and not force ours on them, we must also signal that we are people, faulty though we may be, who attempt to follow the most important commandments. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:29).

My anger for my colleague's apparent disrespect has worn off, but I remain saddened that he fails to see the love of God all around him, or through me.

In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org and is a regular contributor to "The World and Everything In It," a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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