Read the introduction to Deuteronomy here.
In Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of Christ it is brutal to watch his portrayal of the stark reality of Jesus’ torturous execution as it is painfully and realistically portrayed in a vivid, front-row seat perspective. Why did Mel make this movie?
As I watched The Passion I was immediately reminded of my emotional reaction to another film made by Steven Spielberg, called Saving Private Ryan. This film depicted the brutal reality of World War II as it took you into the first-person perspective of a soldier storming Normandy beach. The grisly reality of that film left me sick to my stomach and somber for days.
Why did these men make these movies? Were they sensationalists out to entice the consumer’s blood thirst and rack up a box office jackpot? I don’t think so. I believe these movies were made for a simple reason…so we would not forget. As a post Viet Nam, Gen Xr, I have never known war. War for me was Desert Storm where we watched from the comfort of our living rooms as smart missiles methodically wiped out cities from a distance. From our perspective, it was no different than watching any other type of TV.
I believe Spielberg made Saving Private Ryan so that my generation would know the truth and would have a greater respect for those men who gave their lives—and their youth—to fight for freedom.
In the same way, and at an infinitely deeper level of intensity, Gibson made The Passion. We, as comfortable Americans, have woefully sanitized and intellectualized the crucifixion of Jesus. We can tend to forget the truth of the pain that Jesus suffered. So, a film like The Passion, as difficult as it is to watch, is a helpful reminder of the truth about Jesus.
Moses knew that the people who stood on the east side of the Jordan were no different than you and I. It didn’t matter that they had eaten miracle bread their entire life or had seen the water miraculously gush forth from the rock, or had been following a supernatural pillar of cloud and fire through the wilderness. Those things would fade into a misty memory as soon as the juice of a newly harvested cluster of grapes gushed between their toes in their very own winepress. It would not take long before the prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey would tempt them to forget the source of their abundance and slip into pride, arrogance, and the pursuit of self-gratification.
Notice where the focus of Moses’ instruction was targeted. The weight of responsibility for the proper instruction in God’s Law for God’s people lay with the parent. The priests were not called to teach the people about the Law. The priests were only to manage the sacrifices. There were no religious schools established to teach children how to “do it right.” Those came much later. God’s original plan for the transmission of His Law and the preservation of the purity of the nation was to that of parental life education.
Parents, every moment of your life you are teaching your children about God, whether you know it or not. If you are always gone and are working three jobs to “provide for your family” then you are teaching them that God is an absent God. If you are bitter and angry towards others, then you are teaching them that God is a bitter and angry God. If you are humble, compassionate, and willing to seek forgiveness and extend forgiveness, then you are teaching them that God is a compassionate and forgiving God.
You’ve probably heard the old cliché that more is caught than taught. That is very true. It doesn’t matter what you say about God, or what the Bible lesson is in Sunday School. The message the children hear about God is what they see in the adults around them. In our church communities we have a very precious and important opportunity and responsibility. Even if you don’t have a child of your own, you may be in the presence of children in the church. They are watching you. They watch how you interact with the group. They watch what you do when you think no one is looking.
As adults it is our job to teach the children about the Kingdom of God through our lifestyle. Why? So that they don’t forget. As is usually the case, this comes back to the overflow principle. If you are living in the Kingdom, and you are not forgetting, then your behavior will teach the children about the truth of the Kingdom of God.
So, as we participate in the spiritual disciplines of daily scripture reading, prayer, weekly gathering, seasonal celebrations, let’s realize that these things are in our lives to keep the reality of God’s Kingdom in the forefront of our minds and hearts and to spill over into our children. Don’t forget.