Why I enjoyed Exodus: Gods and Kings

exodus-poster-1Last week, I went to see Exodus: Gods and Kings. I remember first seeing the trailer for it a few months ago and being instantly intrigued and interested. I rarely ever go see movies in theaters, but I knew I wanted to watch this one. And I’m really glad I did. In fact, I really enjoyed it.

Of course, because Exodus is a retelling of a Bible story and because two other huge films have already been made on the same story (Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments in 1956 and the 1998 DreamWorks film The Prince of Egypt), Exodus has been scrutinized from the very beginning. Especially in the Christian community, people were concerned that director Ridley Scott would take way too many creative liberties with the plot and characters.

Well, Ridley Scott certainly took creative liberties. Even more than the creators of The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt. In fact, Exodus really only followed the main pillars of the Biblical plot: the Israelites in slavery, Moses being called by God to deliver them, the ten plagues, the parting/crossing of the Red Sea. Many of the details were completely different from what we attribute to the real story in the book of Exodus.

But despite all of this, I enjoyed watching the film. I’m really glad I went. Here’s why:

Exodus: Gods and Kings made me think. It presented a story I’ve known all of my life from a completely different perspective. And while this perspective was inaccurate in many respects, it caused me to reconsider my preconceived notions of the Bible that I’ve developed which may not be as true as I once thought they were.

For example, Ridley Scott chose to portray God in the form of an eleven-year-old boy with a very questionable personality. I found this portrayal to be strange and concerning, but it made me deeply consider my view of God. When it comes to Biblical stories like the exodus, I think we tend to see God as a disembodied, deep booming voice without much depth to His character. So seeing God depicted in a totally opposite manner was good for me. It was a good reminder to me that God is so much deeper than we often make Him out to be.

The storyline of Exodus also includes an enormous number of details that are nowhere to be found in the Biblical story. But that made me realize: we don’t know a bunch of the details. In fact, many of the details that we do treat as Biblical fact aren’t that at all. Just as Ridley Scott filled in the holes with his ideas for the plot, so do we Christians. If you go back and read the story in the Bible, you might be surprised to find what isn’t in the story that we all assume is fact. Watching Exodus helped me to think about the human element of the story of the exodus, something I think we often forget. It provided human plot details that may or may not have been true. But either way, it made me think.

exodus-wave-posterSomething I very much appreciated about Exodus was that I never got the impression that this film was an attempt to discredit the Biblical account. Sure, it took a lot of liberties, some of which were not accurate. And yes, it did try to naturalize some of the plagues. And I did disagree with how the parting of the Red Sea was depicted. But through all of that, I never felt as if the creators were attacking the Bible story. In fact, I appreciated and respected the creativity and thought put into the film by Ridley Scott and everyone else.

Ridley Scott is a self-described atheist. But he doesn’t attack the Bible. In fact, throughout the film, despite the inaccuracies, I see respect for the original story. And that is remarkable. I think it’s neat that an “avowed atheist” would create a film of such depth based on the Bible.

After I saw the film, I was asked if I’d recommend it to anyone to see. And I had to stop and think before answering. My answer was this: If you’re looking to watch a Bible story on film, then don’t see Exodus. But if you’re looking to be challenged and to think, then by all means do so. If you enjoy movies of depth that leave you pondering and reflective, then this is the movie for you. And even if you don’t enjoy the story, the cinematography is phenomenal. I almost think it alone was worth my ticket.

I very much enjoyed seeing Exodus: Gods and Kings. It wasn’t what I expected. But it was good. It made me think hard about a lot of elements in the story. So to Ridley Scott, I say well done. I very much respect your work. Thank you for not attacking the Bible, but helping me be intentional about what I do believe.

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Just Because I Can

head buttNo one likes to argue. No one likes conflict. Or at least that’s what we think. That’s what we tell ourselves. But it’s not true. In fact, often we feed on conflict. We like to argue. We like going contrary to everyone else. Why?

God has created humans in an incredible way. We are complex, full of emotion and depth that I don’t believe anyone will ever completely understand. And one of those characteristics is our rebellious side. Yes, we all have one. Even the most compliant person has a part of them that wants to resist. Rebellion makes us feel independent and strong. We’re standing against something. And in some ways, that’s really good. If that rebellious nature is channeled right, it can make us stronger and better people.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside of our rebellious side. When we find that we have the strength and gut to be contrary to others, we then start exercising that just because we can. We feel good being different and strong and independent, so we want more.

Now, this is different from a good healthy critical mind. It’s really important that we are careful about what we believe and what we think. But sadly what can happen is we can move from healthy critical thinking to always looking for a bone to pick. This has happened to me. At times I’ve found myself intentionally looking for problems in what others are saying not because I want to be cautious in what I believe and not because I want to have an intelligent conversation with them, but instead just because I want to find something wrong just so I can be a little rebellious. I want to argue just because I can.

We express this tendency in many different situations. It may be in a dinner time conversation. Maybe a text. Maybe it’s Facebook. In fact, today I was tempted to respond to a Facebook post I disagreed with. But I didn’t. And part of the reason was because I knew that deep down I just wanted to disagree because I could. It wasn’t really because I wanted to engage in a discussion on the issue. I just wanted to be a little rebellious. I might have been right about my opinion, but my motive was wrong.

Let’s admit it, it’s fun sometimes to go against the status quo. It’s fun to shake things up. But don’t let that feed you. Don’t rebel just for the sake of rebelling. Don’t start an argument (as orderly as it might be) just for the sake of criticizing. Have a purpose. And be honest with yourself. I’ve found that sometimes I’ll create a purpose for myself just so I feel good about arguing. Basically I’m lying to myself, telling myself that I have a good reason to be critical and rebel a little, but in reality I just want to argue because I can.

calvin_arguingNo one likes people who are always correcting everyone else. No one likes people who always have to bring up something contradictory whenever they’re in a conversation. Don’t be that person. Choose your battles. Choose the ones that matter, the ones that you actually care about. The ones that don’t fuel your desire to rebel just because you can.

Be the kind of person that people enjoy conversing with because you can disagree respectfully but you’re not out to disagree for the sake of disagreement. Be uplifting. Be encouraging. Be wise in choosing to be contradictory.

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Grace

For about the past two weeks, I’ve been out of town helping plan and run a national conference with an organization I’m heavily involved in. One of the themes we focused on was grace. Our guest speaker spoke about the need to give and receive both grace and reconciliation. But grace is hard. Because it means giving something up. When we extend grace and reconciliation, we give up some of our desire for justice. We forgive. We move on. And that’s hard. When we receive grace and reconciliation, we admit we’re wrong. We are humbled. And that’s hard.

But either way, grace is good. It’s powerful. It’s life-changing.

However we can’t give and receive grace without the power of Christ working in us. Grace is a characteristic of Christ. It’s in His nature. We can only give and receive grace because Christ did it first. And now, it’s our responsibility to do the same.

Extend some grace today. Receive some grace today. It will change your life.

Immanuel

Immanuel.  This single word describes the miracle and the beauty of what we celebrate at Christmas. God with us. The very Creator of the world and everything in it with us. Becoming fully human and yet still remaining completely God, He came to be with us.

Us. The ones who intentionally sinned against Him. The ones who dishonored Him. The ones who replaced Him with others. The ones who broke fellowship with Him. The ones who deserve nothing but eternal separation from Him. Us. God with us.

Think about that choice. Think of the sacrifice. Think of the humility.

And He did this why? One word. Love. Not because we loved Him, but because He loved us. And He loved us that much. Not because He had to. But because He wanted to. And He took a step further. He didn’t just come to be with us. But He then paid the ultimate price so that we could be with Him forever.

What will we give in return for that beautiful, marvelous, costly gift? What can we give Him? Our hearts. Our love. Our everything.

Immanuel. God with us. May this picture remain with you as you celebrate this week. Have a blessed and merry Christmas!

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