Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

For November 16


New Mel Gibson movie stirring debate about Jesus Christ


                A new Mel Gibson movie will be released in about two months. Called “The Passion of Christ,” the film has stirred considerable controversy. Some have labeled the movie anti-semitic. Others refute this charge.

            The debate will probably fuel widespread interest and increase the number of persons who will go to the theater to see for themselves. I am eager to see it myself.

            My friend, Lester Spencer, was privileged to see the movie in a private screening in Atlanta recently. Lester is Senior Pastor of St. James United Methodist Church, a growing and exciting church in east Montgomery.

             He joined about 50 other people to view a “rough cut” of the movie, set to be released in movie houses on Ash Wednesday, February 25, 2004. After hearing what Lester had to say about the film,  I may have to miss prayer meeting and go see it on opening night. His response was deeply emotional. Here is what he said:

                “From start to finish it blew me away, it overwhelmed me, it shocked me, it captured me, it disturbed me, it hurt me, it revealed my own sin, it left me speechless. The only way I know how to describe it is to say that you don’t watch this film—you experience it!

            “You become a part of it—you are as close to being there as you’re ever going to get—in the Garden of Gethsemane and at the mock trial of Jesus. You are an eye witness to the brutal beating and the savage crucifixion. You’ve never seen anything like it—and you never will! It is true to the scripture. It is bloody and brutal just like the actual flogging and crucifixion of our Lord. It will probably be rated "R" because of the violence done to Christ (it is extremely graphic).

            “It is not anti-semitic in any way, shape, or form. Sub-titles are used to translate into English and interpret the Latin and Aramaic languages used in the film.”

            Lester was so moved by the film that he is encouraging theatre managers and owners in Montgomery to book the movie so that it can be seen by hundreds. He is even suggesting that theaters begin showing Gibson’s movie on Ash Wednesday.

            “It will be an incredible instrument or tool to introduce people to the passion that Christ has for them and for the world,” Lester said.  “I plan for our church to be very involved in supporting "The Passion of Christ" as comes to our theaters.”

            He explains why he wants his congregation to support attendance for the movie: “I believe God is going to use this film to bring millions of people to Christ around the world—what an incredible opportunity for the Church to share the good news about God’s passion for His children and the incredible sacrifice that was made for the forgiveness of our sins. I will never again partake of Communion—the body and blood of Christ—half-heartedly. I will never look at the Cross in our worship center the same way—without the image of a battered and bloody Savior hanging on that tree for me.

            “One of my favorite songs has a line that says: ‘I will never know how much it cost to see my sins upon that cross.’ I will never know! But this movie helped me catch a glimpse of what it cost in blood -- Jesus’ blood.

            “I walked out of that screening room thinking that the message of this film—which is the heart of the gospel—is in complete opposition to our culture. And it will be a stumbling block for many because we don’t want to see blood, we don’t want to hear about sacrifice, we don’t want to admit our sins, we don’t want to acknowledge that we need to be cleansed and justified, and we are afraid to face up to how much God passionately loves us—because if we ever fully acknowledge His overwhelming love for us, then we will be forced to respond to His Passion.”

            What an endorsement for a movie! I wish I had attended the screening so I could offer my own reaction. That must wait until after Ash Wednesday. For the moment, I just had to share my good friend’s passionate response to “The Passion.”

            I can hardly wait to experience this movie for myself on the big screen! + + + +