My husband and I watched two different movies this weekend: "Man on Fire" with Denzel Washington and "Blood Diamond" with Leonardo DiCaprio. Both movies were about men who held unusual occupations. In "Man on Fire" Denzel Washington was a trained killer, broken down by memories from his life choices, and in "Blood Diamond" Leonardo DiCaprio was a diamond smuggler in Africa.
Two characters, two different movies, two different production companies; however, in both movies the main character asked the same question:
"Do you think that God will forgive us for what we have done?"
While watching each movie I observed that the main characters desperately wanted that forgiveness—especially Denzel Washington’s character. And even though his counterpart told him "No" (God will not forgive us), I noticed that the writers wove in a path back to life for each character. The paths were unusual, winding through the love of a child for Washington and in a female journalist for DiCaprio. But both plots showed evidence that the writers envision God as someone who forgives and as someone who gives second chances. Each character was also realistically presented with choices about accepting the path presented to them.
(As a side note, one thing I liked about "Blood Diamond" was that although the relationship between DiCaprio and the female journalist (played by Jennifer Connelly) alluded to a future the couple never slept together. The writers were more concerned about DiCaprio’s character doing what was right than in trying to lure in their audience with a bedroom scene.)
I consider what we see in most of the media a barometer. This barometer tells about public opinion, but also tests society’s feelings on matters and can eventually sway public opinion over time. Observing this question in both movies made me wonder if many in our society are desperately seeking forgiveness but feel like God will not forgive them for what they have done. It made me wonder if God is trying to reach out to us through these writers and actors (whether they know it or not). Perhaps God is using media to call us to him. Perhaps he is showing us to look for him in the good things that happen in our lives.
So, let's go back to the question. Does God does forgive?
Yes, I believe he does. But I am not just pulling this belief out of an obscure orifice. There are many verses in Scripture to back up my point. My favorite is I John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." In other words, if we tell God about our sins he will forgive us and make us clean inside. Acts 3: 19 says: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…" To repent means to go the other way. In order to do that you have to be sorry for what you have done. By confessing and repenting we tell God that we want him to come into our lives. It is then that the "times of refreshing" will come.
Okay, so what are "times of refreshing"? Have you ever been working outside when it is really hot and you are sweating like a pig? After that a cool shower and maybe a glass of iced tea make you feel human again. You are refreshed. When God forgives you that is what it can feel like. You feel good again, relaxed. You don’t have to work for God’s approval because God forgives us whether we deserve it or not. That is called grace.
In "Man on Fire," Washington’s "time of refreshing" came as he opened up to the little girl and helped her meet a personal goal. He quit drinking and fell back on his faith in God. His personal torment seemed to have dissipated. He was a man at peace with himself and the world around him. And then, when the difficult times came his decisions were based on his love for the girl rather than himself. DiCaprio’s time was short lived, but through the plot he learned to have concern for others rather than himself. And isn’t that one of the keys toward a good life?
I don’t want to give away any more of the movie for those who haven’t seen it. But both are flicks worth seeing. Yes, there is violence and language, and I wouldn’t recommend them for children, but the theological implications are too great to ignore.
Will God forgive? Yes.
Can you experience this? Yes. Just ask God for forgiveness, be truly sorry for your sins, and believe that God hears and that times of refreshing will come.