Mel Gibson’s new movie Passion of Christ has been one of this year’s top films (#10 at the time of this writing), and it is arguably the most controversial. Critic’s reviews range from moving to savagery, and user reviews are equally charged. It has sparked arguments among muslims, and it has rekindled the anti-semitic debate as well. The movie has also prompted a number of confessions. It is the confessions that I want to explore here.
After viewing the film, Dan Leach of Texas confessed to murder. Johnny Olsen of Norway confessed to arson. Similarly, Turner Lee Bingham of Arizona confessed to robbery. Each of these cases was cold, so the men were likely to get away with their crime. Each credits the movie prompting them to come forward. Regardless of your personal reaction to the film, these confessions are radical, and deserve our attention. How could a movie prompt this reaction?
The film bills itself as an accurate depiction of the last days of Christ. The story itself, recorded in the new testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, is about Christ’s love. Christ was radical. His ideas about love and faith challenged the people he spoke to, so much that the religious & political leaders of his time wanted to kill him. His ideas are radical enough that 2,000 years after his death we still know enough about him to form a strong opinion about who he was.
And Christ’s love is radical, too. Radical enough that once you experience it, everything else you know pales in comparison. Radical enough to change your life. Radical enough to prompt you to give up your lifestyle, hopes and dreams, so that you can live the life that he has for you. Think about it, if you knew that you were loved deeply, the way you are right now, how would that change who you are?
Why is it so difficult in our day to see or experience this radical, life changing love? Because the church in America is a failure. We can all cite stories of a priest or minister being convicted for some sexual misconduct. More subtly, and possibly more damaging, most who have been part of a church community can share a story of a church being more concerned with new carpet than loving people, or becoming so engrossed in debate that it breaks up. Its easy to find fault with Christianity and religion in America because our religious leaders are leading broken lives like the rest of us. So the argument goes something like, “if God is so loving then how can a pastor / church / christian be so hurtful / destructive / uncaring?” Following that logic, one must come to the conclusion that either God is not real, or God does not care.
Here’s the thing, though. Christ didn’t die to spread religion, or to grow the church. Christ died on the cross to show his love for people. I believe that it was God’s love that prompted Leach, Olsen & Bingham to confess their crimes. They each saw God’s radical, life changing love. They saw the truth about God’s love, which is that his love is complete, unconditional, and healing. Some might say that they were foolish to have confessed, now they’ll have to pay for a crime that they were likely to get away with. I say now they’re free. Free of guilt. Free of hiding from their past. Free to face the penalty for their crime, and move on with their lives. Free to not let their past actions dictate their future behavior.
Perhaps you are hiding from your past. Scripture tells us that all have sinned. How can you tell if you have sinned? You have felt guilty about some past action. Or maybe its less tangible than that. Your life feels like a train wreck in slow motion, you’re aware that something is amiss, but its difficult to pinpoint, and harder to address. You can be free. You can live a radical life, and you can love others radically.
I don’t know what the future holds for these men, or even if they have truly accepted the gift of Christ’s redemptive work. But i do know that you can taste this life changing love for yourself. And the best part is, its a gift, it won’t cost you anything. No service, no good deeds, nothing. You only need to pray, and ask for that gift.