Worth Dying For

The apostle Paul travelled some 10,000 miles for 30 years, was blinded, shipwrecked, whipped, robbed, stoned; well acquainted with hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness. Assaulted by false witness, pain and infirmity. More than enough to make a compelling film. Would you believe instead this movie revolves around his last days in a dark, dank, desolate prison cell hewn out of rock? Surprised me too. In a powerful way.

Filmed in Malta where Paul was once shipwrecked, starring Jim Caviezel, Oliver Martinez, Joann Whalley, John Lynch, and James Faulkner, and spiked with haunting musical background, the stage is set to create something that will leave you forever changed. No matter where your faith stands. Paul, Apostle of Christ accurately and vividly marries the essence of the ancient past to present relevance, laying out answers to what life was like back then while stirring questions for our time.

Blamed for the great fire, Christians were hunted down, brutally tortured and killed with bloodthirsty relish. Barbaric cruelty reeking of insane inhumanity reigned supreme under Emperor Nero. Rome was a dangerous place for followers of The Way.

That did nothing to deter Luke, the Greek physician from stealthily making his way to visit Paul where he literally immortalized his life-work in what became the biblical book of Acts. The same account that spread throughout the world and magnified across the silver screen for us. Where it’s our turn to grasp Paul’s mission and message. And the story prison could not confine.

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The realistic action in Paul, Apostle of Christ locks your attention and releases a flood of emotions mixed with points to puzzle over. Anger, heartbreak, fear and frustration for the violence, injustice, and persecution contrasting starkly with love, forgiveness, hope, mercy, grace  peace and joy in the midst of hardship. Arrows straight to the heart. Especially for those of us struggling with guilt or forgiveness. Or if you’re battered and bruised from stabs of persecution. If your faith is wavering or non-existent. Or if present-day darkness is casting you under a shadow of gloom-drenched trepidation.

We see Paul transformed from the enemy of Christ to the man beaten, martyred living out the message of the Jesus he once despised. What really happened on the road to Damascus? How did the most zealous persecutor of Christians flip to endure big-time trials defending the faith he sought to annihilate? Surely there is hope, grace, and redemption, no matter what we’ve done.

Condemned for crimes he didn’t commit, alone with the scars of abuse and isolation, he stood for peace and forgiveness. No doubt in his mind – “grace is for everyone”. Even the worst among us. He held nothing against those who abandoned, imprisoned, and whipped him. The love in his eyes prompting us to do the same.

Paul’s testimony made believers out of Romans and Greeks attached to gods of their own. Something convinced them to walk away from worshiping and sacrificing to familiar deities for an invisible God worth risking their lives for. Preferring death to life without Christ. What might that be?

Like Paul, those early Christians were persecuted, tormented in the worst way, yet their lives were filled with hope, joy, and a promised happy ending. For those of us who know rejection and exclusion because you won’t join in the gossip, know what it’s like when someone turns their back on you for refusing to lie for them or standing up for what is right; have been ridiculed for not cheating or waiting to have sex, this movie offers you hope and comfort.

And, oh yes, we find the most powerful man in the world felt the need to restrain a frail, old man and kind, simple people doing good in the name of a convicted, crucified criminal. Rather laughable don’t you think? There must be more to this story.  Confirmation for the convicted Christian. Proof to ponder and hopefully adopt for the unbeliever.

What really made the movie for me was James Faulkner’s portrayal of Paul. He cast the giant of the faith in a different-coloured light. I always pictured the apostle as bigger than life. Strong, powerful, energetic. We see a meek, soft-spoken man; remorseful,  broken and scarred, facing his final hours. Humble. Gentle. But still burning bright and strong with the fire of Christ’s love radiating in his every word. His heart in full display.

Finally, Paul’s words in dialogue and scripture fuse into a charged baton sparked with inspiration and conviction which the film nimbly passes onto the viewer. With task in hand, it’s now up to us to run with it.

Film has been provided courtesy of Sony Entertainment Releasing Canada (Affirm Films) and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


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