Perspective: Stewardship messages communicated in the movie, "The Passion of the Christ"
"The Passion of the Christ" and Stewardship
When the number one movie in the country being Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ for several weeks, opinions and reflections were flying through the congregations, the internet and the secular media about the film. The detailed depiction of Jesus' last 12 hours touches nearly every moviegoer in a powerful way. But what kind of stewardship messages does the film send?
Many people of faith that have seen the movie have commented that the Sacrament of Holy Communion will never be the same for them. Along those same lines, stewardship comments from moviegoers while far less common--have often pointed toward a critical question: "Now that we've seen a representation of what might have happened, how do we respond?" This important question in many ways forms the root of all stewardship. The Passion of the Christ provides a visual starting point to Clarence Stoughton's famous quote"Stewardship is everything we do after we say 'I believe.'" We see in graphic detail the very thing in which our faith asks us to believe. Our stewardship response flows from this point. But I am yet to hear any person of faith say that after seeing the movie, the offering in church will never be the same.
In the film as throughout scripture, Jesus provides the ultimate stewardship example. Right until his passing, Jesus consistently looked to connect individuals with God or individuals with each other. This reaching out happened in the face of incredible physical pain and what must have been deep loneliness. Yet through it all, the film demonstrates Jesus reaching out responding in love to everyone around him, even his tormentors. This commitment to reach out is an important stewardship response, in fact one we often overlook.
One depiction of a character from Scripture provided an especially strong stewardship image. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke note that Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus' cross on the way to Golgotha. In the film, Simon demonstrated a compassionate, dignified connection with the man he was helping to his death. Simon gave of his strength and his openness, fearlessly and selflessly, even in the face of tremendous physical pain of his own. When he parted company with Jesus, he began to sob as the change in him that his time with Jesus brought about began to sink in.
This acknowledgment of the change in Simon points to two stewardship responses we can see in ourselves if we look. First, any time we spend walking alongside of Jesus will have a profound effect on us. It takes an incredible strength and an incredible confidence to know that Jesus is walking alongside us every day, carrying our cross, and only by faith and repentance can we carry even a portion of it. Just as Simon walked alongside Jesus, so Jesus walks daily along side of us. Our stewardship comes into play when we can offer something of ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit to bear someone else,s burden. By doing this we become what Luther called a "little Christ."
The second stewardship response was shown as Simon walked away from the-about-to-die Jesus. Simon began to sob the farther he got from the Lord. That is also a stewardship response. If we stay close to Jesus, the world and its inherent sin cannot touch us. But as soon as we step away, here come the strong emotions and committed responses that a person of faith is able to have. Even though it's hard work staying close to Jesus like Simon did, the stewardship process of fighting through the sin alongside our Lord cannot help but change us.
Stewardship Resources Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 8765 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631. Any part of Salt Seasonings can be reproduced for local use with attribution.
Salt Writer, March 2004.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.