When I attended an advance screening of "The Passion of the Christ" in January, I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. There I was, sitting in a Pentecostal church in Orlando, Florida, with thousands of pastors, and we were watching an R-rated movie on a screen hanging above the pulpit. Earlier that day, actor Mel Gibson, a Catholic who prefers his liturgy in the most traditional Latin format, had told the evangelical Christian audience that he hopes his film will be an evangelism tool. Gibson gambled almost $25 million of his own money to get this project in theaters. He tells reporters that God put it in his heart to get the story of Christ's crucifixion on screen. Speaking to Christians in Colorado last summer, Gibson said: "The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film, and I was just directing traffic." After seeing Passion, I wasn't sure which was more impressive--the movie itself or the muffled sobbing I heard coming from people who were overwhelmed by its pathos. I suddenly realized what could happen at the local cineplex when non-Christian folks who have never gone to church see Gibson's movie out of curiosity. Do you realize how amazing this is? We have a Catholic talking to evangelicals about the Holy Ghost. And we have evangelical Christians endorsing a mainstream Hollywood film that accurately details the last hours of Christ's ministry on earth. I call this a miracle. Let's hope we're smart enough to recognize God at work.
In this movie's case, the R stands for real. My prayer is that The Passion of the Christ will help us get real about our faith-and serious about reaching those who haven't heard.