The new movie called The 15:17 to Paris, which was directed by Clint Eastwood, is not only a fascinating experimenting in "reality film-making," but it also pushes the boundaries of secular Hollywood by taking a pro-Christian stance on the way it treats the spiritual awakenings and faith affirmations of the characters.
On the surface, the movie tells a true story of how average guys dealt with a terrorist attack, but the film also has a deep undercurrent that exposes hypocrisy while cleverly revealing gritty, genuine faith playing itself out in everyday life.
The following are five unexpected lessons from the movie, which is currently playing in theaters across America:
1. Bias against single mothers exists in society and should be challenged.
One of the underlying messages of the film is that the bias against single mothers is unfair and unfounded. In one scene, a teacher blames two single mothers for their sons' troubles simply because they are single mothers. In an inspiring show of courage and defiance, one of the single moms shouts back, "My God is bigger. ..." She combatted ingrained bias with faith in Christ, who dismantles bias. She was not going to let biased people discount or demean single mothers. Jesus Christ does not demean them. Single mothers are not alone. The Lord God is on their side. And, indirectly, the single mothers in this film are part of the heroism of the story because they raised their boys with a faith in Almighty God, despite the shame-casting, gracelessness and entrapment of the "Christian school" they attended. No one should underestimate the power of praying single mothers to raise their sons to confront evil, save people and be willing to lay down their lives for another.
2. Establishment Christianity can be very wrong about people.
In the movie, the leaders of a Christian school are portrayed as rigid and authoritarian, lacking love, grace and empathy. The principal and teachers follow the letter of the law, but fail to align with the spirit of God's Word and His presence. They represent an establishment Christianity that is not Christ-like; thus, it is broken and no different than worldly control in the dubious wrapper of religion. They are more concerned about rules, swear words and compliance than they are about Holy Spirit empowerment. The director, Clint Eastwood, was able to demonstrate a respect for genuine faith in Jesus Christ with a biblical-like excoriating of hypocrites, which are the religious order.
3. People get inklings about a greater purpose.
Eastwood handled with care and sensitivity the injection of prophetic leanings of some of the characters. One of the main characters talks about how he was experiencing a growing sense of purpose, as if life were propelling him and his friends forward to a great happening. Moreover, the single mom of one of the young men actually says in the movie that the Lord spoke to her personally about a great adventure coming up for her son, fulfilling a greater purpose. It's amazing to see this exposed in a secular movie with respect and honor.
4. Ordinary people are capable of rising up to do extraordinary things without selfishness.
If three ordinary guys did not act on the train from Amsterdam to Paris, the world would have heard news of a much worse outcome, driven by terrorism. It was the selfless heroism of the Americans that catapulted ordinary people into a position to do what the Word of God tells us to do: push back darkness with the light, fight evil with good and help other people. The lesson is in the selflessness—not in any desire to be a hero for praise or adulation.
5. Everything in life, even failures, prepares you for moments that create your legacy.
The 15:17 to Paris does a masterful job of showing how all the little things in the character's lives—failures, training, testing and acts of resilience—were used to prepare the men to respond on a day when a terrorist was going to unleash terror on innocent, unsuspecting people. Could God use everything in a person's life to prepare them for a defining moment? Small decisions make a difference. The message is subtle in the movie, but it's as if Clint Eastwood gave a nod to the reality that God works all things for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
The 15:17 to Paris is a film not to be missed, especially not by the Christian community. It's not every day that a Hollywood film comes out that honors people of faith, respects traditional Christian values and has the sensitivity to distinguish between religious hypocrisy and true, genuine faith in God, demonstrated by Christ-like qualities.
Note—The movie contains a few swear words but is very light on bad language by Hollywood standards. Not suitable for young children, but may be appropriate for teenagers who live in a social media culture where swearing has become as common as air. The 15:17 to Paris could even serve as a topic in a youth group meeting, exploring the spiritual dimensions of the film.
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