The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.Genesis 7:17-24
I don’t have a stomach for ruthless and brutal movies. Although you could well argue that Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was true to the brutal treatment Jesus received at the hands of soldiers and scribes, I do not find such depictions edifying. I did watch that movie, but I couldn’t watch Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. I had to stop watching shortly after the film’s start. When it comes to Bible films, The Chosen tops my list. I also really liked Chariots of Fire, though strictly speaking it wasn’t a Bible movie.
Then comes the movie, Noah. Starring Russel Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky, it is a dark and ugly movie. Aronofsky takes significant liberties from the biblical account in his depictions of these events. But he does manage to depict the darkness of a world in rebellion against God. The brutal nature of flood waters, and the fighting of people who are trying to get aboard seemed real to me.
We have a cute and cuddly soft Noah’s ark, replete with cute animals: a giraffe, lion, and elephant, and rhinoceros. There is even a Mr & Mrs Noah. There are numerous children’s books about Noah and how he saved the animals. All these are safe and sanitized versions of this saga. And while the Bible’s account is not graphic, it is clear. There is evil everywhere on earth. Violence and rebellion, lawlessness and greed abound.
Jewish rabbis instructed their families that their children should not read Song of Solomon until they are 30 years old. Other stories of the Old Testament are often and appropriately sanitized for younger years and hearts. David and Bathsheba comes to mind, as does the account of Tamar and Amnon.
There comes a time when our Sunday School sanitizing of these biblical events needs to be set aside in favor of a more honest reading. That’s when biblical characters become more than flannel-graph cutouts. And that’s when our faith becomes more precious. You don’t have to be a sanitized version of churchyness to be part of God’s story of redemption.
This is no excuse or invitation for us to abandon any self-control, or propriety in our speech or actions. We do well to act graciously and politely, and speak graciously and circumspectly (cf. Proverbs 25:11-13; Ephesians 4:29). But if we see someone who violates our sensibilities about piety and godly demeanor we ought not quickly dismiss him or her. Sometimes that which we abhor in others is actually a reflection of our own faults and shortcomings.
God has revealed that his people are all sinners. That’s not an excuse for a willful abandoning of God’s ways. But it is a good reminder that the Good News of God’s love for sinners is not only good, but something we desperately need. Let’s be real and honest about God’s people and the world’s need for mercy, grace, and salvation.
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