Tuesday nights are date nights for my wife and I, a chance to reconnect away from the kids. We usually see a movie, and tonight, we saw Jet Li’s Fearless. We really enjoyed the movie, it was filled with action, wisdom, and a redemptive theme. In fact, this movie impacted me more as a spiritual metaphor than any recent film we’ve seen.
1. God’s heart breaks for children (spoiler alert)
In the movie, Jet Li’s daughter is severely injured. As I thought about my own daughter and how dear she is to me, I was all weepy, and understood a little of how devastating such a loss might be. As I communed with God over this, I thought of how God must feel about all of the homeless, orphaned children in the world. I recalled the prayer of Bob Pierce just before he started World Vision – "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." I thought of James 1:27, which says
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
2. The goal of discipline is not merely to win, but to become someone of character
The goal of learning to fight is not merely to win, it’s to become a better person. If you win by cheating, or without humility, you have not yet learned what the disciplines are supposed to teach you.
3. Often, failure is the teacher we need in order to reach maturity
We can see this in the lives of Moses and Peter, to name a couple of prominent Biblical examples. This is also why Paul the Apostle warns us to not put untested, young men into Christian leadership in the church – because their self-sufficiency and pride have not yet been subdued by failure.
4. Treating your opponents with respect, even if you disagree, is what earns you respect
This is the hardest lesson for me to learn. I get easily frustrated by underhanded tactics, poor logic, or whatever other "distasteful" things my opponents throw at me. But the point is that if you maintain respect for your opponents, you earn respect, and have a better opportunity to win them over, at least to the fact that you are not interested in attacking them personally, but are actually well-meaning towards them. This is a common lesson in many martial arts films, but it is one I need to take to heart, and it was well represented in this film.
For example, one of the best books I have read on Islam is Mark Gabriel’s Jesus and Muhammad: Profound Differences and Surprising Similarities. In the back of the book, he has a list of do’s and don’ts for sharing the gospel with Muslims. At the top of the list are (1) Don’t insult Mohammed, and (2) Don’t insult the Koran. As much as I despise the teachings and results of Islam, it is more effective to show them that we are not bent on disproving their faith, but in affirming ours.
As it is said, "It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness." Or as Jesus said, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32). If we lift up the truth, it will be obvious to those living in the darkness of Islam that they have served a lie.
One side note – Jesus also rebuked people, and was not afraid to disrespect hypocrites. We should be careful in jumping to the conclusion that our opponents are hypocrites, but sometimes, that’s really the answer.
5. Christians must affirm and learn from other faith traditions
Watching the movie made me recognize again the wisdom captured in the martial arts and Asian traditions. I realized again how much Christians can learn from these other traditions, but their unbiblical theology with respect to other faith traditions prevents this.
Most Christians view other faith traditions or world views, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Yoga, Confucianism, Sufiism, etc. as demonic in origin, and whatever truth they do have is merely "the Devil clothing himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). They also reference Paul’s description of those offering meat to idols, saying
1 Corinthians 12:20
No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.
The problem with this theology is that it is incomplete. A better view is that
- there are two types of truth, common/empirical and revealed
- we can learn from other wisdom traditions, which are made up of common truth similar to that in Proverbs. In fact, we can learn much from others in this area
- when it comes to revealed truth, we can choose to believe that Christ gives eternal life after this one, and his death removes our guilt, while at the same time affirming the truths in other cultures and traditions
As Paul did at Mars Hill, he affirmed the truths they already had by quoting their poets and philosophers, and then segued into the gospel.
I think our disdain for others, and our obvious prideful unwillingness to learn from them is a huge obstacle to the gospel, and our maturity. Let us learn what they have of value, and then share what we have of value – the gospel of Jesus.