In Grace of God, Detective Bill Broadly, a man who lost his faith many years ago, is called to investigate the disappearance of the local church’s collection plate. As he questions various church members, rumors swirl as more congregants learn about the theft. When one unexpected churchgoer confesses to stealing the funds, the confession resurrects Broadly’s views on God, and helps him see that through faith and belief there really is rebirth and redemption.
Here are five important lessons for Christians that Grace of God reminds us:
1. No one is perfect — and that’s okay.
It’s interesting that people often think that if a Christian isn’t perfect, he’s a hypocrite. In Grace of God, Bill (an atheist) says he doesn’t like Christians who think they’re better than others. “They’ll all be exposed as hypocrites,” he says, adding that the difference between a Christian thief and an atheist thief is that one isn’t a hypocrite.
Lucky for us, we’re don’t have to be perfect — our God is that for us. During a poignant part of the film, Pastor Samuels confesses to stealing a sermon and passing it off as his own. “I’m a thief,” he says, adding that he’s just as guilty as a bank robber in God’s eyes. His admission leads others to stand up one-by-one and confess their sins of theft — from stealing cleaning supplies, to rounding up hours at work, and using church software at home.
But, the pastor concludes the sermon on a hopeful note that’s important for Christians to remember: “It’s for us thieves and sinners that Christ came to save.”
2. Your past doesn’t have to define you.
Jerold, the church’s caretaker, has a sordid past of drug possession, grand theft auto, jail time, and more. But in the midst of all that, he’s able to find the purpose God has set for his life. People often get it into their heads that they can’t approach God until they’ve worked out their problems, addictions, struggles, etc. themselves — not so.
No one is past the point of forgiveness. Jerold realized that for himself — and didn’t give up on trying to win his incarcerated relatives for Christ, too. Additionally, God uses Jerold to reach his brother, who also found Christ in jail — and though he’s imprisoned, he feels totally free.
Jerold reminds us of Paul’s words in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . .”
3. Being a Christian is about more than belief.
Pastor Samuels has a nice talk about the gospel with Bill, who says he doesn’t get this whole belief thing. The pastor tells him that being a Christian isn’t about belief — “Even the demons believe — and shudder!” he says, quoting James 2:19. Rather, Christianity is about admitting you’re a sinner and that your sins have separated you from God, which necessitates Jesus to restore our relationship to God through faith.
Bill questions that there’s no ceremony, no program, no requirement to join a church in order to be a Christian. How does that produce rebirth, he asks. It’s a change in outlook. The pastor tells him that if you accept that the Creator of the world sent his Son to die so that you can get to heaven, it changes your perspective.
Has the truth of the gospel changed your perspective?
4. We need to come to Jesus when we least want to.
It’s a common problem among Christians that the more you feel yourself straying from God’s ways, the more you avoid him. When we find ourselves mired in sin, we find it hard to come to God in prayer. But that’s precisely when we need to come to him — in the midst of our sin. He doesn’t cut us out of relationship with him for sinning if we’re in Christ.
In Grace of God, Constance, the church secretary, finds herself in a place where she doesn’t want to pray anymore — she doesn’t feel very Christian anymore. It’s because she’s in the middle of this big sin, a big lie. When she should be praying, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance, she’s shutting him out in her shame and guilt. It isn’t until she prays a simple, “God, help me” prayer that she’s able to step out of that darkness.
5. Investigate biblical claims for yourself.
It’s easy to rely on someone else to tell you what to believe, how to act, and why to live a certain way. But that’s also what can lead to cults, false prophets, and general perversion of the gospel. If you aren’t regularly reading the Bible for yourself, anyone can fool you into believing what they claim the Bible says.
In the film, Jerold tells Bill that he used to be bothered by people talking to him about Jesus. So instead of following in that mistake, he gives Bill a Bible and tells him to take a look for himself. “It’s better you find out for yourself,” Jerold says. He’s absolutely right. Let the Word of God do the talking — and supplement that with the wisdom of pastors, elders, and leaders whose claims you can test against the words of the Bible.
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Grace of God is available at Wal-Mart on March 24, 2015. The film stars Primetime Emmy Award nominee John Ratzenberger and was awarded five Dove Family-Approved seals.
It’s the second installment in a series of 10 full-length, modern-day features based on the Ten Commandments. The first, In the Name of God — A Story of Giving Faith, was released November 2014, also available at Wal-Mart.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.