Reports say that Mel Gibson stands to make over 350 million dollars from his movie The Passion of the Christ. That’s a huge payoff for a personal investment of 30 million dollars—though it was invested at considerable risk, since he had no idea whether the film would be a colossal flop, or whether it might put his long career in the movie industry in peril.
And while we usually think that risky investments are entitled to huge payoffs when they succeed, doesn’t the gospel message call us to a higher standard?
Missing the point
Though Gibson’s movie certainly portrayed the brutality of Jesus’ last hours on earth, it was a far cry from giving us a vivid picture of Christ’s meaningful years of life. Because Gibson didn’t provide us with any context in terms of who Jesus was or why he was killed, he failed to show Christ as someone radical.
In his lifetime, Jesus hung out with the poor, the sick and the dying, as well as prostitutes and tax collectors—people who were pushed away to the outskirts of town, people who were not welcome in polite society. He called people to concern for these human beings by his own example of inclusion. He gave His own people the extra burden of loving not only the least in their own oppressed society but also of loving even their Roman persecutors .
He said that that was what the Kingdom (or Reign) of God was like.
It was no easy message and it stirred up a lot of trouble. It was so counter-cultural that the Romans and the Jewish religious authorities wanted to get rid of Jesus.
I’m not far behind you, Mel
Gibson, however, isn’t all wrong. He places the burden of Christ’s death on all of us and rightly so. I know I still haven’t gotten the message. I still ignore the poor. I still remain unconcerned with people who I think of as lost causes. I haven’t taken any poor and pregnant teens into my home so they won’t resort to abortion. I ignore members of my own family when their needs take me out of my comfort zone. Don’t even get me started on my enemies.
I’m sure I’m not alone. We all are afraid to stretch ourselves past what’s comfortable. Jesus knew then and he knows now that the Kingdom of God remains far from being fully realized.
There’s still time….
Mel Gibson has garnered much praise for his work in this movie, but will the praise stop there? At this point with the profits raking him in more money than he could ever spend himself, doesn’t the gospel message call on him to continue the work of Christ, and to do so in a more significant way than any one of us poor slobs ever could? For example:
- He could donate millions of dollars to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, to change the course of the AIDS crisis in Africa.He could start a foundation to help pregnant teens during the early stages of their children’s births to counteract the poverty that promotes abortion as an option.He could travel himself to destitute areas of the world, bringing widespread publicity to those in serious need of assistance, and providing funds to care for the sick and the hungry a la Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta.
Not that it’s all on Mel
While Mel has a huge opportunity in front of him, naturally the burden is not his alone. We need to heed Jesus’ message to pay more attention to the plight of others, to get involved. Instead of plunking down another $10 to see The Passion again, how many of us will hand that same $10 over to the needy, to those in whom we could see the broken and beaten face of Jesus if we tried. Their eyes are those of people we see outside the theater, in the barrio, in the prisons, even in our own families.