“What if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world,
but you knew they’d never believe you?“
In the time-travel movie Déjà Vu, Agent Douglas Carlin asked this question to a woman he desperately wanted to save from a terrorist. As with any fiction-type movie dealing with imaginative themes, if you’re the one watching you must concede that the impossible is possible. For the sake of enjoyment and entertainment, we will choose to accept that some sort of parallel universe is feasible.
I suppose that most of us are convinced we need a break from the real world sometimes. Or at least what we have come to believe is real – what is seen, what is heard and what is felt. We enjoy vacations because typically they take us away from the routine of our daily lives. And even though we know we must ultimately return to real life, we bask in the glorious moments of escape from the ordinary. It is why commercials can be effective. Companies spend millions of dollars on a 30-second spot because they believe humans can be persuaded to believe a product will transport them into another dimension of comfort or contentment. A snowy scene is perfectly set with the most beautiful couple in the most stylish winter gear laughing and lobbing snowballs at one another. Most people who see the commercial are not thinking about frostbite, a snowball to the face, the wet clothes or the preschoolers nearby who need naps. Our mind focuses on the few seconds of what appears to be a gorgeous and devoted couple experiencing all the joys of winter delight. We allow ourselves to believe the unbelievable.
For years, countless numbers of people have concluded that the bible is like a good (or some may consider it bad) sci-fi movie. It has all the elements we need to lift us out of reality into another world that cannot be explained, and doesn’t need to be. Some people may even value it, but it is nothing more than a recognition of the creative imagination of those who compiled it through the years. As with other literary masterpieces, the bible is placed on the shelf beside other written works of art. Just like a 30-second commercial, it is merely a book of fictional stories that engage our imaginations and fill us with temporary escape from reality.
So … what if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world,
but you knew they’d never believe you?
In the movie, the question is asked twice. These two moments are pivotal scenes. And I think it would be fair to say the movie hinges on the response. Both times, the response is “I’d try.”
Why would someone try to believe something they were told from the start they would never believe? Because they have come to trust or love the person who is speaking. If what is being said is, in fact, the most important but unbelievable thing in the world, it would require faith on the part of the hearer to even try to consider it. There is something about that moment in the movie when the characters look at each other and say “I’d try” that feels so real. It feels believable.
And it is in that moment that the audience must answer the question too. We have to choose to accept that this couple was part of an alternative reality that changed the outcome of their ‘real’ lives. Just like we believe a commercial’s appeal, we place ourselves in the scene and decide that the hero is worthy of our faith. Not only will we try to believe, we will believe!
God told the prophet Jeremiah that he was to tell the people something they would not believe. He warned the prophet that his words would fall on deaf ears and hearts. The problem was that they were not even going to try. In Matthew 13, Jesus explained why He spoke in parables to the unbelieving generation of people. It demonstrated the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words that the heart of the people had become so dull that they would not see or hear the good news of grace being offered them even if it was right in front of their eyes.
In our women’s bible study through Colossians, Ruth Chou Simons asked us to consider journaling our testimonies. She wanted us to rehearse our stories of redemption and the gospel work that had taken place in our lives. As I thought about it, what was evident to me was the many moments in which God had given me an opportunity to believe Him. I grew up hearing daily about the most important thing in the world. I heard about it at home and at church. I had mentors and discipleship leaders who impressed upon my heart the importance of choosing to believe. It is this belief that led to my trusting and knowing God – the most important thing. The only thing. The only real thing!
“Now without faith it is impossible to please [God], for the one who approaches Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews)
I believe God created humans to enjoy all the good and beautiful things. We read in the Old Testament the great lengths to which He went to instruct the Israelite artists who escaped slavery in Egypt. In Exodus we read about a particular artist named Bezaleel. When the Israelites were freed and needed a new place of worship, God called Bezaleel and “filled him with the Spirit of God in skill, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work with gold, with silver, and with bronze, and with cutting and setting stone, and with cutting wood, to work in all kinds of craftsmanship.” Our Creator God designed humans in His image and gifted certain people with artistic imagination. Using God-given creativity is good when filtered through the trusted Word of our Maker. What is imagined takes form and becomes an authentic masterpiece.
There are many people who enjoy a creative movie or book. Through them we are inspired to contemplate the notion that the impossible exists in some other realm. We also love a good commercial. We convince ourselves that breathlessly running through the meadows of a flowery field in the pouring rain is exhilarating and wonderful, and not a muddy mess that leaves us drenched, exhausted and miserable. Yet even as we envision these unrealistic moments of perfection, we know deep down inside they do not exist in real time. Well, not permanently.
So how in the world do we convince someone to believe the most important, seemingly unbelievable, thing in the world?
We are the work of God’s artistic imagination. He expresses Himself and engages the world through what He has created.
We reveal Him to the world by proclaiming Him.
We tell of His never-ending goodness, and faithfulness and perfect righteousness.
We display His beauty through our words and songs and lives.
And we pray that the eyes and ears and hearts of those who are nearby will be opened to His magnificent worth.
CS Lewis was the master of creating awe-inspiring images to communicate great truths. He spoke of myths in a different way than we have come to think of them. In his mind, they were not “diabolical illusion… not priestly lying… but a real unfocused gleam of divine truth on human imagination.” Lewis was one of God’s masterful artists who found a way to make ‘myth’ come to life. He was able to take a supernatural yet factual story and create a picture that would communicate divine truths. Through him, and other artists like him, God is telling us the most important thing in the world. HIS story of redeeming grace.
“Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.” CS Lewis
What if I had to tell someone the most important thing in the world,
but I knew they’d never believe me?
I’d never stop trying.
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by the builders, that has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.
Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.