Wrestling with a prostitute

What makes a movie, or any art form, Christian?

Does the author or creator need to be Christian? Should there be a quota of Christian words or themes? Is the good guy going to win or does the bad guy have to convert for it to be truly Christian?

Another question to ponder is, Can art even be Christian?

I’ve seen too many Christian movies. By that, I mean movies that certain Christian groups lauded and commended. I even read the supplementary curriculum that was available for purchase. Most of those movies, though, are less Christian and more inspirational. Faith-based, perhaps. Faith in Jesus might be at the center of dialogue, but usually a cursory faith. Nothing too wide, long, high or deep.

I like to joke about these Christian attempts to portray faith to the world. I joke because it’s the best I can make of them. We don’t seem willing to accept art if it doesn’t match the Christian label. Has the church become just another marketable group? While I don’t know the statistics, I’m sure more than ninety percent of the audience for these movies is already Christian.

That tells me someone figured out a formula we love to watch.

We could let art probe deeper aspects of faith and humanity. But we’re too used to watching comfortable Christian tropes. In truth, they may hurt our efforts to portray the depth of the Christian faith. That’s why this is an important conversation for us. I also want you to learn to reflect more on what represents our shared faith.

A rabbi once instructed me about the Bible’s willingness to let people be people. The biblical text doesn’t buttress the power of God by fabricating perfect believers. Perhaps the text has more faith in God’s power than we do sometimes. And it’s not just that people in the biblical narratives aren’t perfect. That’d be too easy an argument to make. Many biblical characters have their faults on full display and are still lifted as examples of faith. You and I are left to figure out what that says about them and the God they serve. Christian movies don’t often offer that kind of opportunity.

Many of us know the story of the spies sent to Jericho. The hero of that story is a prostitute, Rahab. The text doesn’t tell us that God or Joshua directed the spies where to go; they went with Rahab. I’ve always wondered why they ended up there. Does that mean to suggest anything about them? Of course, Rahab serves the people of God in their battle against Jericho and, as a result, saves her family. Through her acts, she also ensures the lineage of Jesus continues (Matthew 1).

Notice that the text doesn’t say she stopped being a prostitute. She could have. Maybe the need to sell herself went away after Jericho fell.

I’ve heard Christians quickly assume she did. She had to if God saved her, the thought goes. There had to be a “come to Jesus” moment for her. To me, that idea stems from our need for the story to conclude in a positive manner, maybe even a “Christian” way. A perfect way to say, “The End.” But the Bible doesn’t offer that to us.

What if she didn’t change?

Well, here we are left to wrestle with a prostitute that is a hero.

Stay blessed…john

This generation

First and foremost, being a Christian is about following. We are followers of Christ. That means we learn how Christ lived his life and fashion ours after him.

People often identify Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Do we realize the distinctiveness of each of those titles? Throw me a life raft and I’ll affirm you saved me. You may even become my hero. Chances are, though, I won’t try to shape my entire life as an imitation of yours.

But that’s part of what it means to call Jesus “Lord.” It’s easier to affirm the savior part of who Jesus is to us. Now, we’re saved for heaven. It’s that Lord part that trips us up every day. If Christ is our Lord, then we must follow.

And as we follow Christ, we also lead others.

Maybe you’re a church leader. That can be in an official capacity or not. Has your church ever voted on you to be a leader? Does your church have people who don’t need the titles? I’ve known saints who never served on a committee who were the ones people looked to for wisdom and insight. (To me, that’s a great reminder to not get so caught up in leadership models.)

My point is, we all lead in some manner.

Now, let’s look at a seemingly harsh encounter between Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 17. Jesus took three disciples up the mountain to experience the Transfiguration. When they descended, a crowd awaited them. A man, a father knelt before Jesus. He wanted our Lord to heal his son. As it turns out, the father had asked the disciples to do it before. They were unable.

The first response of Jesus to this news is, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?”

Ouch.

Can you imagine being a disciple at that moment? Why was Jesus so harsh to them? Part of the answer could be in additional reading.

In Matthew, there are several times Jesus references this childish, adulterous, evil and perverse generation. That makes sense when you consider part of Matthew’s overall backdrop. Matthew picks up the stance Jesus took against the religious establishment. They, after all, are the ones leading this generation. This speaks to the many confrontations Jesus has with the Pharisees, for example.

So, it could be, in this encounter, that Jesus rebuked the religious leaders and not his disciples. Or, if he was speaking to his followers, he may have been hinting to them to not follow the way of the religious leaders.

Their way is not a way of faith. It is about control and power. Their leadership doesn’t follow anything faithfully, only that which brings benefit to themselves.

As you and I lead, in whatever capacity, how will we do so? Leading with faith means you follow the guidance and wisdom of the Spirit. You also submit to the lordship of Jesus.

Think of all the generations mentioned in Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus. Now consider what we know about the salvation and lordship of Jesus. If you or your church leaders lead in any way that quells either of those two characteristics of Jesus to anyone, you become a replica of the generation Jesus addressed.

Stay blessed…john