I loved the movie "I Can Only Imagine." I was thrilled it found success at the box office. I was elated to see the media coverage and acclaim it received. And the movie was especially impactful for me because I grew up in the same area, southwest Arkansas/east Texas, at the same time Mercy Me was starting out. I had the opportunity to hear one of the first times they played the song "I Can Only Imagine." Their indie records are still in my CD collection. I even started a praise and worship band after seeing Mercy Me in their early days.
But, then I saw the other Christian movie "Paul, Apostle of Christ," and I wished "I Can Only Imagine" wasn't even showing.
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Yes, I just said that. I wish the movie that restored the faith genre in Hollywood, impacted millions and impacted me personally was not even showing. The reason? It's keeping moviegoers from seeing the new Paul movie. American Christians need – scratch that – MUST see "Paul, Apostle of Christ."
The Paul movie communicates the message American Christians need to know, which we've seen throughout history and throughout most of the world today: Following Christ comes at a price. America has been an anomaly; we have lived in a bubble that has allowed Christians to worship and impact society freely in contrast to Christian history and international Christianity today.
We need to be captivated by the message that the Christian faith is worth beatings, poverty, imprisonment and martyrdom. "Paul, Apostle of Christ" delivers this message powerfully. I walked out of that empty theater and walked past the two theaters showing "I Can Only Imagine," and my heart broke. A message of suffering and the call to prepare one's life for the challenges ahead was being overshadowed.
Again, you have to understand that I love Bart Millard. I love the transformative message in "Imagine," but each and every Christian in America needs to go and see "Paul, Apostle of Christ." As I walked out of the theater, I turned to my wife and said, "I don't want you to ever speak of how much I cried during that movie." Yes, cried! The heroic faith being displayed on the screen cut me to my core, as I realized that was how our faith fathers lived so that we could now know the truth, and it's how our brothers and sisters in Christ live across the world right now as they are persecuted for our faith.
The movie picks up at the end of Paul's life, as he is waiting his beheading in a Roman prison. Luke secretly travels to Rome to see Paul and write the book of Acts. In the process, Luke finds a community of Roman believers who are being hunted down and killed due to Emperor Nero's decree. Followers of Christ are put on poles and burned as lights. Others are sent to arenas to face wild beasts. All the while they hold on to what they have in Christ.
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Now, this story is nothing new in the cinematic world – someone dying for a cause they believe in. But the difference is that they are dying for what we, too, believe. The story's power also derives from the mastery of Andrew Hyatt, who encases Paul, Luke, Aquila, Priscilla and the Roman believers in a realistic light. They display the same bewilderment and struggle that can be seen in our eyes when we seek to know and follow God's will. But they do it against all odds.
In the movie, the followers of Christ are tasked with sharing the Gospel and showing the love of Christ with the threat of losing everything. So, the task I give you of going to see a movie while you enjoy reclining seats, popcorn and a pop doesn't seem too trying. Please go and see "Paul, Apostle of Christ." Go soon; it's starting its second week and will not be in the theaters long.
You must see this movie. You must know the stories of the Scriptures you hold. You must see the value of the faith you have. You must see the bravery and perseverance we, too, need to possess. You need to see Paul seeing Jesus in the world beyond, so you will realize that will be you one day.