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Another Missing Gospel
on November 29, 2013
"Unconditional" is an incredibly moving film. It reminded me in several spots of "Pay It Forward." The story packs so many emotional scenes and so much drama that I'm tempted to call it manipulative; but I suppose to be fair, every film is "manipulating" the viewer in some way. That's the whole point - delivering messages and endeavoring to elicit an emotional response of some kind from the viewer. So again, this film is powerful. The scenes have been put together very well. The directing is strong. The music is fitting and excellent. The acting, especially by the two main characters (Joe and Sam, played by Michael Ealy and Lynn Collins respectively), is really well done. Collins is particularly good.
This film bears no Christian labels (of which I'm aware), which is no surprise since Jesus is never mentioned in it. Nevertheless, it seems to masquerade as a Christian film, so I intend to address it from a Christian perspective. (As a Christian, I can't address it from any other perspective anyway.) The story is compelling, even if far-fetched in a few spots. Unfortunately, like the children's stories Sam writes, the message of this film is fantasy. What I mean by that is it is heartbreakingly incomplete. The deep messages that come out of the film are these:
1. God loves you.
2. You just need to realize it and accept it, and it will change your life.
I agree with the first message. God indeed loves everyone. I do not agree with the second message. If we're going to talk about God, then we need to go to the authority on God, which is His Word, the Bible. Looking at the totality of scripture, it is blatantly obvious that the purpose of this brief, human existence is to make sure you enter into eternal life when you leave life here. The Bible is quite clear as to how a person does this. In John 17:3, Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." So there's something very important about knowing Jesus Christ. In John 3, Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And lastly, Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
The Bible is extremely clear then that entering into eternal life ("going to heaven" or "being saved," etc.) requires knowing Jesus Christ, being born again, and making Jesus lord. All of these things have their roots in faith, believing things God has revealed to us. "Unconditional" doesn't say anything about being born again or about making Jesus lord. However, the film tells us that knowing God just happens if we seek Him. While this can indeed occur, what is missing throughout this film is the most critical piece: Jesus Christ. God has chosen to reveal Himself through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4). He has chosen to make salvation available only through His Son (John 14:6, Acts 4:11-12). The fact that God loves you is not enough for you to enter eternal life. For a person to realize and accept God's love for them is not enough to enter eternal life. A person must be born again in order to receive the free gift of eternal life.
There was a time in my life that I didn't want to live. I never found myself in a rainy alley with a loaded gun under my chin, but I relate to Sam's pain. And as in the film, God's providence placed individuals in my life who told me of His love and pointed me in a new direction. I sought after God for a year and a half, and I managed to change my life in some positive ways. Some of the pain of my past seemed to fade away. However, time and good works and intentions do not heal wounds. They may seem to heal, but they merely submerge in our souls, only to pop back up to surprise us by their enduring strength. Only Jesus Christ heals wounds of the human soul. Only Jesus liberates people from the bondage known as sin. Jesus said that "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34), and He effectively covered all mankind with that statement. Sin is without question mankind's greatest problem, and in sending Jesus Christ to set people free from sin, God has met humanity's greatest need. That is the very height of love. When I finally surrendered my life fully to Jesus Christ (made Him lord), believing in all He had done for me, I was born again. I was set free from the penalty for my sin (hell) and from the power of my sin to control my life. From that day, my life has never been the same. I received the free gift of eternal life. I entered God's kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14).
That is the message of hope which is grievously missing from "Unconditional." Helping a stranger is noble. Feeding, clothing, and educating at-risk children is noble too and can bring about some positive change in the world, at least in the eyes of man. But from God's perspective, if the name of God's salvation, Jesus Christ, the Hope of all mankind, is never mentioned; all that happens is helped, fed, clothed, and educated people never learn the way of salvation and go to hell. If all we do as Christians is meet people's earthly, temporary needs, we have failed. If all we do is tell people that God loves them and will change their lives if they will accept His love, we have failed. We have failed them and God. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3), said, "You must be born again" (John 3:7). Does anyone have the right to change what God has decreed? No matter how moving it may be, is "Unconditional" a great film if it changes the good news of Jesus Christ? If it omits the good news of Jesus Christ? No. This film is hard for me to dislike because it has such potential. It could have been monumental in its impact for Christ and eternity. Instead, it falls short. Rather than leading people to eternal life, "Unconditional" deceives people and will likely comfort many with false hope, while they continue on a path toward hell. This is a lamentable summary of the film, but it is factual, and it is frighteningly common today.
Given the quality of the film's production and the power of its messages (which will draw people into error), I advise against watching it due to the grievous omission of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.