a New Christianity

Passionately Avoiding the Movie.

It's back! Recut. “The Passion of the Christ”, by Mel Gibson, is once again in theaters this spring (’05). But that’s ok. I didn’t see it last year, and I won’t see it this year, either. I am sure that I am not alone in this declaration. There are probably many people who have come to view the film as too violent, too gory, or have found other flaws in it, and have chosen to avoid it altogether.

Here’s one of my reasons for avoiding the film. Last year, shortly after the film debuted, I found this excerpt* from an article about the film:

“The character that Mel Gibson chose to play in this film reveals a lot about his thinking. It answers the question whether or not Gibson thought that the Jews killed Jesus. In the movie Gibson is there, but you only see his hands. Gibson is holding the mallet, nailing Jesus to the cross. Mel Gibson knows that as Jesus hung on the cross, he was carrying Mel Gibson’s sins, just as Jesus was carrying yours. The Jews, Romans, and...ourselves...are equally responsible for Jesus’ death. We all held the mallet.”

My reaction to this was one of surprise and disbelief. In fact, I reacted so strongly, that I wrote most of this response (in March of ’04). With the re-release of the movie, I have ‘re-released’ my response here, on aNewChristianity.org.

Has it really been so long since Christmas? Not too long ago, we were thanking God for the gift of His son, the baby Jesus. The Gift!!! Why are we so quick to dismiss our Joy? Why are we so quick to take up the mantle of guilt that not even Jesus wants us to wear?

By holding onto the audacious claim that “we all held the mallet”, we seek to raise ourselves to a level of power that not even Pilate could achieve! If you recall, when Pilate sought to explain to Jesus the control that he had over His fate, he makes this statement: "Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?" (John 19:10)

Remember how Jesus answered Pilate: "You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11)

In making this statement, Jesus explained that while Pilate appeared to be in charge, his control over the situation was really an illusion. The same is true for us, today. While some may want (or want you) to feel guilty, or somehow responsible for Jesus’ death, this guilt and responsibility is an illusion.

Jesus made it unquestionably clear who was really in control, and who was responsible for his sacrifice, when he declared; “No one can take my life from me. I lay down my life voluntarily. For I have the right to lay it down when I want to and also the power to take it {up} again.” (John 10:17,18) With this statement, Jesus makes it clear that there is no way we could bear responsibility for his death on the cross, since it was accomplished by His own decision (with the Father). And if we bear no responsibility, then we should bear no guilt, either.

Make no mistake. We have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. And John tells us that: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But confessing the sins we have committed, is quite different from assuming that we somehow have the power to be responsible for Jesus’ death on the cross. The baby Jesus was a gift. His death on the cross and the resulting forgiveness is a gift. We need to be careful not to dismiss this Gift and not to dismiss the accompanying joy that only a gift of this magnitude could bring us! And so we end up where we started (at Chrismastime), with Joy!

This Joy is an important piece of New Christianity, and we need to learn to fully accept all of the joy that God wants us to have. How do we experience this joy? Before you can do this, you must learn to overcome guilt.

Yes, we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. But once we have confessed out sins, God forgives them. (See the article “Movin’ Out” With a Fresh Start, for more information on God’s forgiveness.) While we may for a time feel bad about what has happened, or about what we have done, the process of confession leads us to a place where we can put what has happened behind us. This includes the bad feelings, which includes the guilt. Once you have accepted God’s forgiveness, there is no good reason to feel guilty about those things (which you have confessed, and He has forgiven,) anymore. Rest assured that this is exactly what God wants. By confessing, accepting His forgiveness, and letting go of the guilt, we leave ourselves open to be filled with Joy. This is the truth about Jesus’ death on the cross, his resurrection, and the new thing that God is doing!

Grace and peace to you all,
Paul


*I do not remember the name of the article from which I have taken this excerpt, nor do I remember the name of the web-site I found it on. If you recognize the article from this excerpt, and can provide me with the name of the article, and the web site it was on, please e-mail me at editors@anewchristianity.org and I will add a proper citation.