Monday, April 6, 2015

Do You Believe?

My husband and I went to see the movie Do You Believe? (DYB?) a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d make a few related comments (this is not a review since I won’t get into the details of the movie). The movie was made by the creators of God’s Not Dead (GND), which was a small budget film that was very enthusiastically received by Christian audiences and did well financially. I had liked that film too and commented on it here. The description of DYB? is here. It is basically about people who are living out their Christian faith and also about the people whom the Christians are trying to materially help and spiritually convert.


I noticed that DYB? brought in about half the proceeds of GND the first weekend, but it did exceed studio estimates, so I guess they were happy. I liked DYB? well enough, but I know it will not be appreciated by everyone. The problem with trying to film the Christian experience is that it is the experience itself that brings the meaning. It’s like a story about a happening that was actually quite interesting but falls flat in the telling : you had to be there. When the understanding of God in an individual blooms, it is under the skin, so to speak. It is lived, not watched.


I can testify that the inner life is changed with Jesus Christ. I had been brought up in Church but did not understand the fullness.Christ can bring. I dropped away for a while and in my 20’s I was miserable, even though I was well-educated and well-off by worldly standards. I felt no happiness and had no hope for the future. When I accepted Christ fully, all that changed. I had identity, purpose and joy (along with the many other benefits that come with belief in God). It was like night turned to day. And in coming back to the Christian community, I have heard many similar stories.


It is natural to want this for others. We try to evaluate who is really experiencing Christ and who is not, and some cases are pretty obvious. And we try to help them spiritually. (We also try to help anyone in material need, but that's a little different.)


Many Christians continue to live out our lives the best we can, trying to show others God’s love by what we do. When we tell people about Christ, many of us do it in a loving and concerned manner. Though we falter and sin, we go to God for help to do better. In the nitty-gritty of everyday life, we try to get the ideas across. Since Christians are human, we don’t always live up to the standard. We don’t always live the life and sometimes we accuse instead of encourage.


Unfortunately, those who are affected by bad experiences become cynical and group all Christians together. Then, even when Christians simply try to state the Truth as we see it, the words are taken as harassment. Add to this mix the tendency for those who are doing wrong to not want to hear about it. You get reactions to Christians that are not likely to be kind.


That leads to the other problem with the movie: the people who were helped were either relatively charming or easy to convince. I mean “relatively” in comparison to some of the real people out there that Christians are trying to help. My husband and I have had experience in that arena, and it can be an extremely difficult business.


This actually relates to Catholics right now in the leadership of Pope Francis. One of his main messages has been for Christians to get out among the poor and help them. Now, don’t get me wrong--I am very glad for his emphasis in this area. But he hasn’t really clarified the down side--that many people want help in one way (material), but not in another (genuine acceptance of God and life changes for the better). Still, it is better to be optimistic, and the Pope promotes God's mercy--the emphasis on God's love for us and His desire for us to reconcile with Him.


For a long time, I had continual feelings of failure in my relationships with those who would not accept God. Then as I was reading one of St. Paul’s letters in the Bible, I found peace. He was talking about people who said they followed either him or another apostle. Paul said it is ultimately Jesus Christ we should all be following (1 Corinthians 1, NIV), A little later (1 Corinthians 3), Paul said he and other ministers only plant the seeds and water. It is God who really causes the growth.


It is true from my own life and for many other Christians that it took years for the Gospel to really sink in, so why should it not take time for others? We can speak from our hearts about God, but it is God who ultimately interacts with individuals at the deepest level. And then it is between each person and God whether s/he accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and repents from sin, or not.


Whether the movie, “Do You Believe?” is a critical or financial success, I think the production has been worth the effort. It will inspire many of the people who know exactly what it is like to try to live out a Christian faith. These persons know every attempt at urging people toward the true God is worth it, no matter the cost. And we have already experienced some of the wondrous transformations God can bring to us on the inside.

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