Martin Scorsese’s film, Silence, about Jesuit missionaries in search of their mentor in 17th Century Japan came out in January is now on DVD. Two Portuguese priests sneak into Japan, where Christianity was outlawed at the time, to find their mentor who may have committed apostasy. Based on a novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō, the film is said to be an intense presentation of the sufferings Christians have gone through, and in endure in the present, for following Christ. This isn’t a review or endorsement for the movie or book, though I do plan at a later date to talk about both. What this is about, are some very meaningful thoughts that go along with the purpose behind the book and film.
Some time ago, I read an interview with Silence‘s executive producer Tyler Zacharia conducted by Eliza Thomas of the International Mission Board about the movie. Mr. Zacharia said something that resonated with me and was a huge factor for me writing the novel Destitutio Quod Remissio (DQR): “…our perceptions of the world are based on our experiences and the stories that we see, hear, and live. Our experience of suffering, of God, of morality—our whole worldview—can be shaped by stories. When we can walk in someone else’s shoes for a brief moment, whether through a film or a book, we can share in an experience, learn from it, and grow in our own worldview.”
Mr. Zacharia very succinctly put to words what was going through my mind as I wrote about Christian-in-secret Marcus Servius, who loses all his worldly possessions, his position as a Roman senator, and all those closest to him when the secret of his faith is betrayed. Like the movie Silence, my hope is readers will find in his sufferings and his continuous challenge over choosing to forgive his tormentors or succumbing to his desire for vengeance, an aria of hope. The realization God is with us in our darkest hours and may be using us in ways we never imagined. In DQR, the fate of Rome’s Christians was at stake and it takes some time for Marcus to realize it. Even after it, choosing to follow Colossians 3:13 (“…forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”) continued to be a struggle.
We often forget the heroes of the faith in the Bible like the Apostles, King David, Gideon, Moses, Abraham, and Noah all had to face the extraordinary challenges and circumstances they were in with the same sort of limited vision we have. They didn’t get to see in the midst of their ordeals the victory. They had to act on faith and allow God to work as He willed. Gideon had to be panicking inside as he watched 9,700 of the 10,000 soldiers he’d gathered walk home. God promised to give him victory with the 300 remaining, but any of us would still be apprehensive and pretty convinced the battle against the Midianites would work so much better with at least a couple thousand of those sent away along for the task. Abraham had to leave his home and travel to a land he’d never seen, trust he’d have a son at age 100, and be prepared to offer that son and heir (around whom all God’s promises to bless Abraham had been built). Noah had to build a MASSIVE boat to survive a flood brought on by the God EVERYONE around him had rejected utterly.
It is easy to question whether God really wants us to do something we know will lead to our suffering. Anything painful we tend to avoid, yet Christ promised us: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)
Note my choice of words, promised over warned. A dual promise. None of us wants to suffer or to see others suffer. Yet, Christians around the world are suffering and have suffered for millennia. Those who choose to follow God in a world rejecting Him will always face opposition and persecution. It’s been happening since Cain killed Abel. Ultimately, though, as hard as it is for us, we need to face the reality of persecution ever conscious of the Lord’s promise of His victory. He has not, nor will He ever fail us.
I write, by the Lord’s leading, ever with the hope I can encourage and build up readers to face life’s challenges and hardships without wavering in the faith to the very end. And for me, that is a beautiful thing.
* NOTE: If you want to read the interview I mentioned (which I would recommend), here is a link: