Saturday, February 18, 2006


What is the value of family?

When I was a kid growing up in Indiana, my family and I would always make sure we saw the next Harrison Ford movie, whether it was Indiana Jones or Star Wars or whatever he was doing next. Funny how the guy whose films remind me of 'family' is now staring in a movie that asks the question: what is the value of family?

The short answer, according to Ford's newest film, Firewall, is at least $100 million.

The long answer is your life.

This movie is basically about a family (Harrison Ford and Virginia Madsen play the parents of two children) held hostage by a team of technologically-advanced bank robbers (led by Paul Betteney) who are planning to hack a bank's computer system to retrieve $100 million.

What struck me about this film is the lengths at which Harrison Ford's character would risk his own neck to make sure the family was safe. Half of the time, you just wanted Ford to go along with what the robbers were asking of him, just so they could get the money and go. But that's not what happens, and to make sure his life and family are intact, he makes a lot of bold, risky moves to save the wife and kids.

Defending the family is an ancient practice for fathers, dating back before Biblical times. St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and handed himself over for her... Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord." (Eph. 5:25, 6:4). In a nutshell, St. Paul is asking husbands to do as Christ did for the family - to lay down their lives if necessary.

That is what Firewall asks of all of us, husband, wife, son, daugher, brother, sister, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, etc. - to lay down our lives for family, no matter what the cost to us, to our fortune, to our career, to our way of life.

In this day and age when families are divided and broken and hurting, we need a message like this. Family is so essential to who we are - it is a link to our past as well as to our future. And while friends may come and go, your blood relations will always be there, like it or not. God gave us our family to support us and to constantly remind us where we come from. We are called to defend, protect, serve and if necessary, to lay down our lives for each and every one of them.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


"Just who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:29

Twenty centuries after this question was asked of Jesus, it seems we still keep asking it. With wars raging all over the Middle East and with tensions within our country, we still don't get it.

Last summer, Crash came into theatres and was mostly ignored by mainstream American filmgoers. But thanks to the Academy Award nominations (and a successful DVD marketing campaign), this movie has re-entered the nation's conscienceness.

This is a good thing because Crash is a film brave enough to try and answer the question posed to Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: "Just who is my neighbor?" (10:29). Set in modern Los Angeles, the movie follows several characters, each of a different race or nationality, in their journey from fear to acceptance.

The quintessential story arc of this movie is a two-parter.

The first part involves a white racist police offer (played by Matt Dillon) who pulls over an African-American couple (Terrance Howard and Thandie Newton) for a traffic violation. During this scene, the officer sexually assults and harasses the woman in front of her husband, and then leaves them after they tearfully apologize to the officer for the violation.

The second part takes place a day later when the officer comes upon a car crash with a trapped driver on an open road with flames and spilled gasoline. When the officer discovers the driver is the same woman he assulted the previous night, she panics and refuses his help. But as the flames approach the car, he refuses to let go and risks his life to save her from death. As he carries her to safety, the two embrace.

This scene is what the Good Samaritan story must have sounded like to the man who asked Jesus, "Just who is my neighbor?"

Too often, we forget how scathing this story was to its audience to hear how a Samaritan could be the good guy. But to hear that the good guy in Crash is the white racist cop in our multi-cultural world today might be close to that feeling, and what Jesus meant by his famous parable.

The simple answer to this ancient question is "everyone."

Our neighbor, whom we are called not just to tolerate and accept, but to love and lay down our lives for (embodied in this film by that quintessential scene), is everyone we meet. And in our war-ravaged world, this even means those who we are fighting against in Iraq as well as those on the other side of the political or religious aisle.

What if, just what if, Jesus asks us, would we do if we truly saw everyone as our neighbor? We would be laying down our lives for those we hate instead of trying to kill them. We would be loving and accepting of all people, regardless of their creed or church, their color, their sexual preference, their political choices, or anything to seperate us from one another.

What if...?