At Westside, our mission is to Make Jesus Known. For the launch of our fall 2016 ministry season, we wanted to make a film about what that means in our place and time.
Our city can be a difficult place to live in, especially with the high cost of living and the difficulty of developing meaningful relationships. Both of these things lead many people to consider moving elsewhere, especially as they begin families or desire to live a less demanding lifestyle. We wanted to begin with these challenges and acknowledge them for the struggle that they are. In our film, the male character (“Him”) is about to give up on the place where he lives as he says, “I tried - it’s too hard.”
For the Christian, how should we think about where we choose to live? In Acts 17:26, Paul says that God “...made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” God puts everyone where He wills, for the purpose of having people find Him. Additionally, for the Christian, God calls us to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah wrote this to the people of God who were away from their home in a difficult place to live, and yet asks them to work for the good of the place and people around them.
As Christians, we can forget that the call God has for us in the place we are in is not necessarily for our comfort and prosperity. If we seek that and simply use a place for what it provides us, eventually we empty it of its beauty and find that no place can fulfill our deepest need to belong. In the beginning of the film “He” finds himself at this place and believes that the only response is to leave and try again elsewhere.
There is another way though. The female character (“Her”) first acknowledges the difficulty of the place they both live. This is crucial - the difficulties of a place need to be affirmed as the challenges they are. She gently helps “Him” discover that perhaps he has only been considering his own desires. She then gives “Him” a vision of the beauty of God’s image bearers, the people God has created, wherever they live and whatever they put their hands to. People are, as Tim Keller says, “what God considers the most beautiful sight in his creation,” and they are worth listening to and loving in both word and deed. They are worth being introduced to Jesus.
Attracted to that vision, “Him” responds again that he has tried to stay in this place - but this time asks for help. How does he begin to think less of himself and more about others? How does one find the emotional and spiritual energy for that task? The answer she gives is the Gospel–we first must know the depth of Jesus’ love towards us, and this gives us the strength to love in kind. We follow Jesus’ example, who left his home to become a stranger on the earth–not for his sake, but ours.
This is why we desire to Make Jesus Known. Jesus’ love for us not only changes us inside, but then from that moves us to look outside ourselves towards the needs of others. This is the call for the Christian wherever he finds himself.