If you watch one film this year with explicitly Christian themes, that film ought to be Paul: Apostle of Christ.
This isn’t like those fuzzy, heartwarming, inspirational, almost Hallmarky movies. This is the real stuff.
And by real stuff, I don’t mean that it is the most historically accurate picture to come around. It isn’t. The best way to prepare you for this movie is to say that, while it takes historical liberties in several places, the spiritual message is spot on.
Approach this movie as a kind of “what if” scenario involving two very real historical characters. What if Luke, needing to bring a message of encouragement to the Christians of Rome, visited Paul of Tarsus in prison and took down the entire story of his life? This is the film’s premise of how the book of Acts was written, though not as an apologetic tool, but as an exercise in storytelling.
Putting the historical scholarship aside, and picking up the tools of theology, I was so impressed I wanted to watch it twice in a row.
How does a Christian community remain steadfast in its principles when a petty, corrupt leader becomes an existential threat? This question is at the heart of the movie, and when you see the conclusion, it’ll make you shudder to answer the question of how Christians would dare to shift their principles when a petty, corrupt leader promises to woo them and bestow them with endless protections.
In other words, if they can remain who they are when facing persecution, why can’t we remain who we should be when we face the temptation of Jesus to be given all the world’s kingdoms?
But the second message at the heart of the story is forgiveness. Not only is Paul an inspiration of hope while rotting in a prison, but he is the perfect example of forgiveness. Here is a man who began as a terrorist against a religious minority, only to turn 180 degrees and become that growing group’s most famous leader after its founder. He believed he was forgiven. This was central to his faith, his mission.
It goes without saying that the production value of this movie is impressive as well. Much of the crew had worked on Game of Thrones, as well as one of the actors, and Jim Caviezel, once made famous by playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, now plays the role of Luke, the most famous Greek figure of the New Testament.
This movie is relevant to our time, when we consider how to treat our enemies, how to have unity, and to remember those who are suffering or about to suffer much more than we do. Most importantly, what the important things are in themselves, when we are to live as if we have no power, and yet have all the power in the world. Because we have been forgiven, we can forgive others, as well as ourselves.
I leave you with this quote from scripture:
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”