EULESS, Texas (BP)-—Beyond its $350 million-plus in box office receipts, “The Passion of The Christ” has influenced our culture. But I want to ask a question that hasn’t been raised: “How does The Passion impact our families?”
Think about it. You’ve read the critiques, you’ve heard the nay-sayers and the unabashed praise. But what does the furor of The Passion have to do with our families?
Now is the time to talk about this. We need either to stop the damage this movie has created or encourage others to watch it.
Why is this movie important for our families? Let’s tackle this question from two perspectives:
1. What does the movie itself claim?
2. How should we view the movie from a Christian perspective?
Let’s tackle the first question. Mel Gibson’s movie essentially takes the Gospel message of the Scriptures and condenses it to the last few hours of Jesus’ life.
Gibson uses Old Testament imagery (Jesus crushing the snake’s head with his heel, c.f. Genesis 3:15), Old Testament allusions (c.f. Isaiah 53:5) and New Testament sources (the Gospels) to tell the story of Jesus’ last hours.
These hours, as we know, were violent and bloody. Gibson makes it a point to embrace the violence of the cross and the beating and scourging leading up to the cross.
The effects of this realistic portrayal leave us horrified and repulsed, brokenhearted and moved. How can people be so terrible to an innocent man?
Gibson tells us that only “by His stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This is why Jesus’ death was violent and bloody: That’s what it took to heal mankind through the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
And Gibson’s mission is for viewers to understand this message: Jesus died to heal the sins of the world. Does Gibson accomplish his mission? Well, I think so, but critics will always disagree on this.
So, the movie claims that Jesus heals the sins of the world through the suffering, pain and death of the cross.
Now to the second question: “How should we view this movie from a Christian perspective?”
And more pointedly, “From this Christian perspective, how should we introduce our families to Gibson’s The Passion?”
I think that from a Christian perspective, we must embrace the vision of the cross that Gibson has portrayed, but we must emphasize the resurrection as well.
Without the resurrection, which Gibson does acknowledge, our faith in the Jesus of the cross remains impotent. The cross without the empty tomb is an empty symbol.
What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 15? He clearly states, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).
The resurrection of Jesus secures that His words about the Kingdom of God, salvation from sins, forgiveness, hope and abundant life are indeed true.
Without the resurrection, we have no life. This is how we should view The Passion from a Christian perspective: Embrace the cross; rejoice in the empty tomb.
I am immediately reminded of the words of Deuteronomy 6 when I think about how our families should respond to Gibson’s powerful and insightful movie.
Moses tells all of Israel how to worship God: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
God taught Israel to live the truth of God and model it to their children every day in every way. The same is true for parents today.
The Passion of The Christ remains a powerful teaching tool for our families, but it can never replace the parents’ role in teaching and modeling the death and resurrection of Jesus to our children.
My challenge for parents everywhere is this: Teach the cross and the empty tomb “diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
Claude Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas. For more resources, visit www.LifePoints.org.