Apostle Paul movie is a story for the modern world

Apostle Paul movie is a story for the modern world
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Today, persecution of Christians around much of the world, from the Middle East to China, is one of the silent shames of America’s foreign and economic policy. But Hollywood is releasing a movie for Holy Week that might empower Christians around the nation to end this silence by reminding people of the 1st century Roman persecution that sought to snuff out followers of Jesus Christ from Rome and around the world.

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The movie “Paul: Apostle of Christ,” is not a political film. It is a historic one. Different than normal Christian fare in that the Gospel is given through Paul’s actions and words, but not by an overt, in-your-face call for conversion. This might disappoint some, but it makes sense in the context of the movie and it is this difference which just might make it one of the most impactful films in recent years.

Filmed in a gritty style that makes the viewer feel and almost smell 1st century Rome, the story brings to life the Apostle Paul, the man whose letters make up much of the Bible’s New Testament. Before anyone stops reading because this is just another preachy Christian movie, please know that the movie is faithful to the writings of Paul, but it is anything but preachy.

Instead it is a story about a man’s real-life memories of the evil he has done in the past (persecuting Christians prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus) and his determination to not return evil for evil in the present.

With memories etched into modern America’s collective consciousness of Christians beheaded on the beaches of Libya, children being crucified by ISIS for their belief in Christ and the on-going attempted destruction of the remaining Christians in much of the eastern Mediterranean where Paul established the first Christian churches, the movie provides a powerful message to America’s leaders about love and prayer.

In a red carpet conversation with Jim Caviezel, who plays Luke in the movie, I asked what message he would like for people in D.C. to know about persecution around the world, exemplified by the “Paul” movie. His reply:

“You mean as far as the Chaldeans, Coptic and Syrian Christians that were crucified on Good Friday last year? I’d say, the United States, we’ve got to start, as Christians, not being afraid. Every man dies, not every man really lives and in this film what Paul says at the end is really powerful, ‘To live is Christ, to die is gain.’

“We all die, man, it’s how you live your life and there are a lot of people out there that need our help. ... And I think modern day Christians really struggle with death, Billy Graham just died, he lived 99 years. A lot of people cried, but my God if you don’t believe that man is with Jesus what kind of faith do you have?”

In “Paul: The Apostle of Christ,” the history of Nero’s violence against Christians is shown without some of the graphic visuals that dominate modern horror movies, but the impact is clear. And in the context of the executions of Christians at the hands of radical Muslims in the Middle East, the destruction of churches and imprisonment of Christians in China, North Korea, Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, the message should mobilize the Christian world to not meet hate with hate, but rather to meet it with love and an abiding faith that God is sovereign and in control.

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Political leaders follow movements, and the first step in ending the evil of persecution is naming it. In Rome, it was Nero, but in the modern world it is China’s totalitarianism, North Korea’s evil leader worship, and in ISIS-governed territory it is those who see it as their duty to Allah to exterminate the infidel.

“Paul: Apostle of Christ” is not a movie about persecution, but instead one of the courage of people of faith in Christ who oftentimes died horrific deaths for the glory of God.

It is not a political manifesto, but instead a story of the triumph of love over hate, with 1st century Rome almost two millennia in the rear-view mirror, we know the rest of the story — that Paul’s faith lived on, even as his body inevitably perished.

Modern Hollywood took the chance to tell Paul’s story, because it is every bit as relevant today as it was in those ancient times. Paul was willing to stand and die for his faith as he wrote to the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

In a modern world where evil seems be rampant, Paul and his devotion to Christ stands as a beacon of how humanity should be and what we still should aspire toward. And as Caviezel, the man who played Jesus in the “Passion of the Christ” reminded us, we all die, but do we all really live?

Christians are called to live for something bigger than themselves and bring glory to God by being Christ unto the world, to turn the other cheek to those who would be their enemies, to confront sin without fear.

Something to think about as the celebration of Christ rising from the dead on Easter morning approaches.

Richard Manning is the president of Americans for Limited Government, a conservative organization working to limit the size and scope of the government.