'Be ready with an answer,' Chapman says about 'Passion'
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Unlike the “JESUS” film designed with an obvious evangelistic intent, "The Passion of The Christ" does not end with an appeal to accept Christ as Savior. Therefore, there is work to be done as the Mel Gibson film is released in theaters nationwide, Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said.
"We must be ready with an answer of why Jesus did what He did," Chapman said in his address during the opening session of the Executive Committee's Feb. 16-17 meeting. "I hope every Southern Baptist pastor will train his people to be ready with an answer. The film will teach them what Jesus did. We must teach them why He did it."
Without an invitation from churches, Chapman said, "the graphic portrayal of Jesus' persecution and crucifixion will be a lost opportunity likely never to come again in our lifetimes."
Chapman recounted his impressions upon previewing The Passion in December, saying he will never be able to erase the images from his mind.
"As I watched the film, my own mind raced furiously to comprehend the full impact of what I was seeing," he said. "I could not let myself miss one lash of the whip upon the back of Jesus as it became soaked with the crimson red of His blood. I could not let myself miss one quiver of the torn flesh, one step up Mount Calvary, one pounding of the nail, and one word from the lips of my Lord."
Because of the profound effect the film had on him, Chapman said he wishes he had seen The Passion when he was 17 years old and had most of his life still ahead. But because there is no time for such regrets, he said, he must be sure it makes a difference in the days, weeks, months and years he may yet have on earth.
Chapman said for years he has often prayed for God to do something to change America, while acknowledging the times when he has not been faithful to pray for such a movement.
"One moment I can be high and razor sharp, and another moment [go] about routine life as we all go about in our humanity," he said. "One moment feeling the inspiration, 'Oh, God, do something!' Other moments realizing He can't because of who I am and my lack of faithfulness and my sin and my apathy and the routine with which I go about things I know to do."
Reminding the Executive Committee of 2 Chronicles 7:14, Chapman said the key is for God's people to repent and earnestly pray for a spiritual awakening to spread across the world like a prairie fire.
"There is no revival without repentance," he said.
One issue believers must grapple with is that some are calling The Passion anti-Semitic. Chapman said the undeniable fact of history is that a crowd of Jews, including their chief priests and scribes, called for the crucifixion of Jesus.
"Did the entire Jewish nation call for the crucifixion of Jesus?" he asked. "No!"
"Since the Jews called for the death of Jesus, does it mean they were the sole persecutors of our Lord? No, a thousand times, No!" he said. "Because the Romans beat Him with a cat-o'-nine-tails with bits of sharpened steel and bone on the end of each strap, are they the sole persecutors of our Lord during the last hours of His life? No! Then who nailed Jesus to the cross? We did. The entire human race nailed our Lord to the cross."
Some conservative evangelical Christians have expressed concern that Gibson, the film's director and producer, is a devout Roman Catholic and therefore inserts Catholic tradition into The Passion, Chapman said.
“Not only is there Catholic tradition, no film is ever made commercially that does not have some poetic or dramatic license,” he said. “But from what I saw, nothing got in the way of a riveting sight of who Jesus was and is to this day.”
In the history of Hollywood, Chapman said, no one has ever produced a film about Jesus for theater distribution that is so gripping and sobering.
"Go to the film and turn your eyes upon Jesus," he said. "And let Jesus speak to your heart. For God's Word says, 'So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.'"
Chapman closed his address with a prayer for God to impart His passion. He said The Passion is God's Kingdom work for Kingdom purposes and nothing else.
"Shower us, we pray, with your abundant blessings from heaven and send a great revival in our souls," Chapman said. "Lord, we desperately need a spiritual awakening in our nation. Already we have fallen too far into moral and spiritual decline to recover except that we have a visitation of Your Spirit that characterized the great spiritual awakenings of other generations.
"Lord, do with us and around us what is necessary to drive us to our knees. Help us fall on our faces, repentant of our sin and renewed by the fresh wind of Your Spirit. Give us urgency for scattering the seed of the Gospel. Lord, grant us wisdom. Grant us courage for the facing of this hour. God forbid we miss this opportunity."
EDITORS' NOTE: "The Passion of The Christ" is rated R for violence and is scheduled to open in theaters Feb. 25.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: PROMOTING ‘PASSION.’
For information on using The Passion in outreach, resources are available on the Web from LifeWay Christian Resources at www.lifeway.com/passion.