To say I’m an avid reader would be an understatement. During my elementary years, I attended a country school. Every day, Mom would wrap up my egg-with-ketchup sandwich in a newspaper and send me off to catch the school bus.
One day, my teacher asked why my mom wrapped my lunch in a newspaper. Not knowing how to respond, I said the first thing that came into my head: “My family is poor, and that’s all we have.” The next day, the teacher bought me a hot meal. I didn’t have the heart to tell her Mom wrapped my lunch with the daily comics, and I loved to read them during lunch hour.
Because of my love for reading, I’ve usually read the book before I see a movie. I don’t know why I do that, because I always come out of the movie disgusted that it’s nothing like the book. In the books I read, my hero always looks the same. He’s 5 feet 10 ½ inches tall and a little over 200 pounds. He has a white mustache, salt-and-pepper hair, a twinkle in his eye and more than a slight sense of humor. In the movies, they never cast the character right. Somehow, they end up with a Tom Cruise or a Russell Crowe type. The book is always better.
Right now, faith-based movies are coming out faster than Krispy Kreme produces doughnuts. You can hardly go to church without seeing another movie announcement in the bulletin. Today, instead of using our church buses and vans to pick up children for Sunday School, we load them up and head to the theaters. If you want to see the latest faith-based movie, just follow a church van. I don’t think theaters like church groups, though. Rumor has it that we sneak in more candy than the general public.
Responses to these movies are divided into two groups. Those who thought the movie was a corruption of everything sacred sit on the left side behind the bus driver, and those who loved it sit on the other side. In a Baptist church, that’s how fights get started.
There are two things you should take away from any faith-based movie. First, you need to find the truth. Truth is all around us. I don’t work in any countries where I can’t find biblical truth. Some of the cultures I work in are anti-everything I stand for, but in the midst of their corruption, truth still reigns. I visit many half-built homes with rebar sticking out of concrete block. Most Americans would walk by in disgust, thinking, “Why don’t you finish your home?”
The reason has to do with truth. Most of the countries where I serve abhor debt. The people wouldn’t think of borrowing money that would take 30 years to pay back with a massive amount of interest heaped on top of the principal. So they live within their means, building only what they can with the money they have on hand. And that, my friend, is a biblical truth: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).
These people don’t even know they are living their lives by a biblical principle. But whom do you think has more freedom: those who go into debt, or those who build only as they have resources? Yes, the truth will set you free. It is always a lot easier to win someone to Christ when I commend them for walking out a truth: “You do exactly what our Bible says we should do.” They may not have the whole truth, but with the truth they have, they’re getting closer. Always start your conversations with the truth.
The second thing to take away from a faith-based movie is the realization that you know the Book better than the movie. Real truth comes from living and dwelling in God’s holy Word. Let me remind you of what Jesus said: “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”
(John 8:31b, 32).
Now if the movie goes astray, as all movies do, just take the opportunity to point people to the Book. Every controversy is an opportunity for you to share the truth, a crack the world gives us to insert the truth in love. And yes, the Book does say when we do things on His behalf, we should do them in love.
Well, I need to go. The church van is pulling out, and I don’t want to miss the movie. But I know I’ll come away disappointed, because in the end, the Book is always better.