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What-Silence-Has-To-Say

What Silence Has To Say

Photo taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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Written By Caleb Young, Australia

If you’re into movies that encourage, inspire, or even provoke, Silence may be the answer—if you hang in there and wait for the best parts to emerge.

Silence, a movie that Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese had reportedly worked on for over two decades, revolves around two Jesuit priests who were smuggled into 17th-century Japan just when it started its isolationist foreign policy. The priests, Father Rodrigues, played by Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), and Father Garupe, played by Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), were subjected to physical, emotional, and psychological torture alongside the “Kakure Kirishitans” (the underground Japanese Christians) over their faith—in scenes that take up much of the film’s 161 minutes.

The drawn-out, slow-paced narrative can be a turn-off for some, and was likely one of the reasons why the film did poorly at the box office. However, I would contend that the film is far from a bad one.

Garfield does a fantastic job expressing the emotional distress that Rodrigues goes through when the foundation of everything he believes in seems to slowly crumble. The character of Kichijiro (played by Yōsuke Kubozuka) is wonderfully written and complex. Kichijiro can be described as a strange blend between Judas and Peter who constantly challenges Rodrigues’ concepts of grace and forgiveness in the face of betrayal. The film has a lot of depth and is not afraid to ask tough questions that promise to keep viewers thinking (as it did to me).

As a Christian, I found myself pondering many of the theological questions that arose from the film. And I believe that is a good thing. Although I won’t attempt to answer many of these questions, several aspects of the movie encouraged me in my understanding of my own faith and belief.

 

Putting a Mentor on a Pedestal

We have a very human tendency to place a person on a pedestal. This seems especially true when it comes to spiritual mentors such as a pastor or church leader. The danger comes when we unwittingly equate this person with God; when that person fails—as humans tend to do—their actions can cause a crisis of faith.

This is exactly what happens to Rodrigues when he hears stories that his spiritual mentor, played by Liam Neeson, has publically rejected God in Japan and is working with the Japanese inquisitors to root out Christians. As a result, the Jesuit priest is left struggling with his faith in God.

Although it is a good thing to respect our leaders, we must be careful not to place them on par with, or even above God. We must make Him and His Word—and not the teachings or character of a fallible human being—the foundation of our faith.

 

The Struggles of Persecuted Christians

The film contains several horrific, heartbreaking scenes of martyrdom—along with inspiring scenes of believers showing steadfast faith even in their final moments, which moved me to tears. I was also struck by the complex, difficult decisions the Japanese Christians had to make under severe persecution.

A common tactic used by the inquisitors during those times was forcing Christians to step on a picture of Jesus. If they refused, the people in their village would be persecuted. Some decided to comply, but most stopped short when they were ordered to spit on the image.

As the leader of the persecuted Christians, Rodrigues’ dilemma was even more complex. Though he was prepared to die for his faith, the Japanese inquisitors threatened to kill members of his congregation if he refused to denounce his faith.

Those scenes were a stark reminder to me that even today, many of God’s followers continue to be forced to make such difficult decisions. Silence challenged me to pray more for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, and to pray for strength, faith, and wisdom when faced with such adversity.

 

When God is Silent

The struggle that Rodrigues ultimately faced was the distance he felt from God in the midst of his terrible situation. He pleaded with God for guidance but was mostly met with silence. At the height of his psychological torture, Rodrigues cried out, “Christ is here. I just can’t hear him.”

Although we may not necessarily have to face the difficult circumstances portrayed in the movie, it is likely that many of us will go through a season of feeling distant from God. How we react to those challenges can have a strong impact on the rest of our lives. Will we lose heart thinking that God does not care for us in our plight? Will we be led astray by false teaching? Or will we, with God’s help, go through the trial and allow Him to mold us into the person He wants us to be?

I’m not saying this is easy to do, and the film shows how difficult those trials can be. But James 1:12 encourages us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

The film’s unexpected, open ending left me with more questions than answers. And yet, Silence served to strengthen my theology and beliefs, as well as give me insight into the struggles faced by persecuted Christians.

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ODJ: He Saw Something

It was with gut-wrenching horror that I watched the video of 21 Coptic Christians being forced to kneel on a Libyan beach before being beheaded by terrorists. Later, I learned that a relative of some of the men who were killed said that many of them cried out the name of Jesus with their dying breath—a testimony to their faith in Him. Though the terrorists had hoped for the opposite effect, they had actually strengthened the faith of the Coptic Church by proving that even imminent death couldn’t snatch away their brothers’ love for Christ!

This story of modern-day martyrs mirrors the story of early martyrs like Stephen. He bravely stood before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:54)—men who wanted to kill him and who were directly responsible for the death of Jesus (Matthew 26:59). Stephen could have kept his mouth shut and maybe made it through with a beating or even a warning. But instead, he testified that he saw Christ standing at the “right hand” of the Father (Acts 7:56). Given how dangerous Stephen’s situation was, this suggests that he truly saw an amazing sight that day!

The story of Stephen is mirrored by the story of many other martyrs over the centuries who have chosen to die rather than renounce their faith in Christ. They, like Stephen, must have ‘seen something’ in Jesus and the Scriptures that led them to give up their lives. I’m encouraged by this fact: they felt so convinced of the Lord’s resurrection that they chose to die rather than recant.

But this challenges me as well: Have I ‘seen something’ worth living and dying for? Something that even in the face of death, I would never take back? I hope and pray that should that day come, the answer is a resounding yes!

—Peter Chin

365-day plan: John 4:43-54

June 22, 2016 

READ: Acts 7:54-60 


He told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand!” (v.56). 

It was with gut-wrenching horror that I watched the video of 21 Coptic Christians being forced to kneel on a Libyan beach before being beheaded by terrorists. Later, I learned that a relative of some of the men who were killed said that many of them cried out the name of Jesus with their dying breath—a testimony to their faith in Him. Though the terrorists had hoped for the opposite effect, they had actually strengthened the faith of the Coptic Church by proving that even imminent death couldn’t snatch away their brothers’ love for Christ!

This story of modern-day martyrs mirrors the story of early martyrs like Stephen. He bravely stood before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:54)—men who wanted to kill him and who were directly responsible for the death of Jesus (Matthew 26:59). Stephen could have kept his mouth shut and maybe made it through with a beating or even a warning. But instead, he testified that he saw Christ standing at the “right hand” of the Father (Acts 7:56). Given how dangerous Stephen’s situation was, this suggests that he truly saw an amazing sight that day!

The story of Stephen is mirrored by the story of many other martyrs over the centuries who have chosen to die rather than renounce their faith in Christ. They, like Stephen, must have ‘seen something’ in Jesus and the Scriptures that led them to give up their lives. I’m encouraged by this fact: they felt so convinced of the Lord’s resurrection that they chose to die rather than recant.

But this challenges me as well: Have I ‘seen something’ worth living and dying for? Something that even in the face of death, I would never take back? I hope and pray that should that day come, the answer is a resounding yes!

—Peter Chin

365-day plan: John 4:43-54

MORE
Read Hebrews 11:35-38 for a powerful description of prophets and martyrs who gave up their lives for their faith in God. 
NEXT
Have you ever been challenged to reject or at least be silent about your faith in Jesus? How did you respond? Have you seen something so true that you would be willing to live or die for it? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

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ODJ: shine brightly

Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.

The church at Philippi knew only too well what it felt like to be persecuted for doing the right thing. Paul, under house arrest for preaching the good news, penned an encouraging message to the suffering Philippian believers. He told them:

Stay strong in Jesus. The apostle wrote, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13). As they relied on God, they could claim the promise that His power and presence would strengthen and help them do the right things.

Shine brightly for Jesus. “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people,” Paul wrote (v.15). How do we do that? Paul implored the believers at Philippi to “hold firmly” to the good news that he had brought them and that they had believed (v.16).

What Paul shared wasn’t some pie-in-the-sky ideal; he had triumphantly faced the bitter sting of persecution many times. And yet even under house arrest he rejoiced in his suffering, and he desired that the Philippians “share that joy” (v.17).

May Jesus give you joy as you stay strong and shine brightly for Him—even if you’re persecuted for doing the right thing.

—Tom Felten

365-day-plan: Exodus 7:15-9:7

February 7, 2016 

READ: Philippians 2:12-18 


Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (v.15).  

Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.

The church at Philippi knew only too well what it felt like to be persecuted for doing the right thing. Paul, under house arrest for preaching the good news, penned an encouraging message to the suffering Philippian believers. He told them:

Stay strong in Jesus. The apostle wrote, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13). As they relied on God, they could claim the promise that His power and presence would strengthen and help them do the right things.

Shine brightly for Jesus. “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people,” Paul wrote (v.15). How do we do that? Paul implored the believers at Philippi to “hold firmly” to the good news that he had brought them and that they had believed (v.16).

What Paul shared wasn’t some pie-in-the-sky ideal; he had triumphantly faced the bitter sting of persecution many times. And yet even under house arrest he rejoiced in his suffering, and he desired that the Philippians “share that joy” (v.17).

May Jesus give you joy as you stay strong and shine brightly for Him—even if you’re persecuted for doing the right thing.

—Tom Felten

365-day-plan: Exodus 7:15-9:7

MORE
Read John 15:5 and consider what God does in and through us as we live surrendered, brightly shining lives for Him. 
NEXT
What’s keeping you from shining brighter for Jesus? How can you experience His power and presence more fully this week? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

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ODJ: stand, don’t fight

Cameron, a friend of mine, didn’t share my spiritual beliefs. He openly opposed Christianity and some of its moral tenets. One day in my previous workplace, he led a seminar on domestic violence and used it as a chance to bash the Bible. His “correlation” was illogical and inappropriate. The book that tells husbands to “love their wives as they love their own bodies” and instructs fathers “Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them” does not condone violence in the home (Ephesians 5:28, 6:4).

Happily, a supervisor got to him before I did, or I might have had to apologize for what I said. That same day, however, I lodged a formal complaint with suggestions on how the topic might be approached in the future.

Not much later, I read a letter from a church planter from another country. He told of a group that was placing huge speaker boxes outside their churches in an attempt to disrupt worship and pick a fight with Christians. The minister had one request: “Please help me pray for our people to remember what Jesus taught us and keep the same focus that He did.” His words touched my heart and opened my eyes. Scripture tells us, “Bless those who persecute you” (Romans 12:14). These good people were on the cusp of genuine persecution. I wasn’t anywhere near it.

I thought about the mere annoyance I had faced from one person in our workplace. And I considered the real potential for violence that this church planter’s people faced. The difference was obvious. I asked the Holy Spirit to change my attitude. Then I prayed for God’s peace for that church planter and for those Christians who are a hemisphere away. And I also prayed for Cameron, for he needs Jesus too.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day-plan: Genesis 4:1-16

January 3, 2016 

READ: Romans 12:14-21 


Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them (v.14). 

Cameron, a friend of mine, didn’t share my spiritual beliefs. He openly opposed Christianity and some of its moral tenets. One day in my previous workplace, he led a seminar on domestic violence and used it as a chance to bash the Bible. His “correlation” was illogical and inappropriate. The book that tells husbands to “love their wives as they love their own bodies” and instructs fathers “Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them” does not condone violence in the home (Ephesians 5:28, 6:4).

Happily, a supervisor got to him before I did, or I might have had to apologize for what I said. That same day, however, I lodged a formal complaint with suggestions on how the topic might be approached in the future.

Not much later, I read a letter from a church planter from another country. He told of a group that was placing huge speaker boxes outside their churches in an attempt to disrupt worship and pick a fight with Christians. The minister had one request: “Please help me pray for our people to remember what Jesus taught us and keep the same focus that He did.” His words touched my heart and opened my eyes. Scripture tells us, “Bless those who persecute you” (Romans 12:14). These good people were on the cusp of genuine persecution. I wasn’t anywhere near it.

I thought about the mere annoyance I had faced from one person in our workplace. And I considered the real potential for violence that this church planter’s people faced. The difference was obvious. I asked the Holy Spirit to change my attitude. Then I prayed for God’s peace for that church planter and for those Christians who are a hemisphere away. And I also prayed for Cameron, for he needs Jesus too.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day-plan: Genesis 4:1-16

MORE
Read Ephesians 5:21–6:4 to see Paul’s practical advice for respecting each other in the home. 
NEXT
How do you react when your spiritual beliefs are ridiculed? Do you want to fight? Do you shrink from the situation? How can you let Jesus turn it to good? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)