This past Sunday, Palm Sunday in fact, actor, producer, and director Tyler Perry presented The Passion, aired on FOX. This live musical hosted in New Orleans, Louisiana attempted to put a contemporary twist on the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Instead, it made a mockery of Christ and the faith held so dear to the hearts of many Christians.
I don’t believe Perry had bad intentions in creating The Passion. In fact, I believe he probably had good intentions, although misguided and uninformed to the true weight of the Gospel message. He is known for specializing on a “gospel” genre in his television shows and famous performance of Madea. Clearly, Perry is gifted and quite creative; I do not wish to discount his many talents and accomplishments.
And to be fair, I didn’t expect Perry to present the most robust theological message of Christ. Nor did I expect him to properly explain salvation found in the Gospel in terms of regeneration, justification, and sanctification. Yet, this goes much further than a simple contextualized proclamation of the gospel.
First off, Perry equated the suffering of the City of New Orleans to that of Christ’s death and resurrection, “Jesus suffered and then was resurrected. Same thing happened to this city,” an egregious misrepresentation of the work of Christ. Additionally, his presentation of Christ, not only stripped the gospel of any salvific message and lacked a call to repentance, it mocked the very life, death, and resurrection of the true Savior of the World.
The gospel message of Jesus Christ is a beautiful and powerful message of God’s plan for redeeming his children to himself. It is a message of sin and salvation, as expressed in the self-sacrificial and grotesque death of Christ on the Roman cross, and his glorious resurrection and ascension.
The gospel is this: God is holy and just, and we are not. All of mankind has sinned against the most holy and perfect God of all, in our disobedience and shame we are rightfully sentenced to death and eternal separation from God. But, God in his love sent his Son Jesus Christ, to redeem all of God’s children to himself. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary; he lived a perfect life, and died the perfect death taking on the weight and punishment of sin, finally and fully satisfying the just wrath of God. He died on the cross, was buried, and raised to life on the third day. Through this death and resurrection, all who might believe in Him as Lord and Savior, repenting from your sin and shame and turning to Christ, will have new eternal life with God.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:1-9 ESV)
This Gospel and Christ is mocked when his message is diminished to the triviality of modern-day pop songs, the Last Supper reduced to a food truck rendezvous, and the resurrection squandered to Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally.” I could go on, but you get the point.
The gospel is a timeless message, and by the work of the Holy Spirit it still and will continue to save the lost of this world. It needs no modernization or relevancy, for it is forever relevant.
Unfortunately, this musical confirms the destructive reality of cultural Christianity, where the good news of the gospel is turned into a moralistic message, not a death to life one. My fear is that The Passion will give false hope to a dying world.
Fortunately, and where I find hope, is that God’s common grace works through even the most unlikely of people and circumstances. I do pray that The Passion causes people to think and contemplate the gospel message and I pray that through the faithful proclamation of the Gospel by Christians and local churches many people will come to faith in Christ.
Yet, as a warning for us all, myself included, we have reason to be concerned if we fully agree with the version of Christianity as told by Hollywood.