Some Christians renounce all movies as “from the devil.” "Hollywood" is snarled from the lips of some believers as if it leaves the taste of bile in their mouths. “Can anything good come out of Hollywood?” they ask. There is no question that, as is true with music, there are some abominable productions being made today. But are we to completely dismiss films as being an arena outside the realm where God can work and speak? Can and will our Father reveal Himself to us through this particular cultural icon? I believe that He will.
I admit that I’m a movie buff. My wife tells me that I can get a sermon out of any movie. I don’t watch movies looking for spiritual applications. I just see them. I have left many movies, having seen the face of my Father smiling at me between the scenes, whispering secrets between the actor’s lines. Maybe others in the theater didn’t see Him, but I know what I saw.
In the movie "Chocolate," I saw the power of authentic grace over religious legalism. "In Les Miserable," I became teary watching the effect that unconditional love and forgiveness can have on a person, as depicted by the life of Jean Valjean. In "The Legend Of Baggar" Vance, Will Smith’s character reminded me that I already have everything I need in Christ. All I need to do is find my “authentic swing” by trusting in what He has already given me by His life. The list of movies could continue. Many have been platforms through which I unexpectedly heard the voice and saw the face of God. I know Jesus goes to the movies. I’ve seen Him there.
As you watch contemporary films, open your mind to the fact that the movie might be a parable for you. Jesus used parables (basically fictional stories) to explain spiritual realities when He taught His disciples. He will do the same thing today as He teaches you more about His life, His grace and His love. This is seeing God through the creative gift He has given others.
It isn’t necessary to sit down to watch a movie, trying to find something “spiritual” in it. Just relax and enjoy the show. He will reveal Himself to you more and more as you learn to be open to divine whispers in the ordinary places of life.
Think about some of the movies you enjoyed. Great stories endure through the years because they speak to us a deep level. They involve those who need to be rescued in some way, antagonists who threaten to destroy the innocents, a hero with redemptive ability who comes to the rescue, and they usually end with a union of love that lasts happily every after. Have you seen these elements in the great films you have enjoyed? Look at these elements again and you'll see that they are the same matrix on which the gospel story stands.
Think about your favorite movies you have seen in your life. Think about the storyline of each film. What were the spiritual applications that could be made if you were to view the movies as parables? Consider the following questions as you recall each movie:
• Was there a message about love in the movie? If so, what was the message and how can it relate to my relationship to my Divine Lover?
• What was the conflict in the movie? As a parable, what can this movie say to me about the appropriate way to resolve conflict in my own life?
• What characteristics of God could I learn about from this movie? His sovereignty? His love? His patience? His goodness?
Films are certainly one way to recognize your Father's presence in everyday life. There are, of course, many other cultural elements through which you can see Him. Great novels can often reveal spiritual truth in a way more powerfully than non-fiction. Art has always been an iconic expression that has often shown us our Father's love. Poetry, dance, sculpture—or even the more common creative efforts such as sewing, cooking, woodworking … the list of ways God can be seen through creativity goes on and on. By understanding that He speaks through creativity, the Holy Spirit will be able to teach you how to hear His unassuming voice within the culture of your routine lifestyle.
Ancient believers said that we live in a "God-bathed world." They meant that God can be seen everywhere if we just look. Do you believe that?
(This article is an excerpt from my book, Journey Into Intimacy)