Ben-Hur opened in theaters last Friday. You probably know that the plot involves a chariot race and may wonder why you need to know more. You likely have not heard of any of the actors apart from Morgan Freeman. The film has generally not received positive reviews from critics.
So, why do you need to see the movie?
Let's begin with some cultural snapshots. Only 35 percent of Americans believe that absolute moral truth even exists. As a result, we're told that we should tolerate all behaviors that do not harm us personally. Of course, such tolerance does not extend to those who do believe in moral truth.
For instance, this morning's Wall Street Journal reports that the Zika virus is renewing the debate over late-term abortions. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said earlier this month that he opposed abortion for pregnant women infected with the virus. Pro-abortion advocates rebuked and ridiculed him, calling his position "outrageous."
Maj. Steve Lewis is an officer at Colorado's Peterson Air Force Base. He was recently forced to remove an open Bible on his desk after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation protested against his "around-the-clock Christian Bible Shrine."
In a culture that rejects objective morality, we should not be surprised that our culture is becoming less moral all the time. CNN reports that Huntington, West Virginia has seen twenty-seven heroin overdoses in four hours this morning. Today's New York Times has a review of Frank Ocean's latest musical album and recent photography, noting that "sexual fluidity and ambiguity play key parts in the new projects" and that his magazine is filled with nudity.
In a culture which rejects moral truth, we can choose to be silent and let society reap what it sows. We can choose to be belligerent with our witness. Or we can find creative and persuasive ways to share God's love.
My wife and I saw Ben-Hur Friday and were very impressed with the script, acting, and production. We were not surprised that Roma Downey and Mark Burnett helped produce the film. Having visited the Holy Land more than twenty times, I can tell you that Ben-Hur captures well the topography and culture of the New Testament era.
Here's why I think critics have generally not been positive, and why it's important that Christians see the movie: its underlying theme is reconciliation with God and with each other. And our conflicted and deceived culture needs that message more than it knows.
Critics who are callous to the gospel are not likely to welcome another film that presents the good news, even though the movie's message is both subtle and realistic. As Paul observed, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
That's why it's so important that believers find every way we can to share the good news effectively with our hopeless world. If they will not come to us, we must go to them. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey used their platform to show how God's love can heal shattered lives and relationships. Their work is a clarion call for Christians to use our influence to do the same.
Lost people deserve to know the good news of God's transforming love. "How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?" (Romans 10:14).
Publication date: August 22, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others?
Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.