Roger Severino

Power Lessons from the Movie Selma

I recently had the privilege of being invited to watch a pre-release of the movie Selma set to be released in theaters this month. As I watched this powerful movie about events in our nation’s history, certain thoughts came to mind and, personally, I walked away stirred by some lessons that are found in Scripture.

  1. The Power of Courage and Convictions. I was amazed at the bravery of those marching for civil rights and their commitment to non-retaliation in the face of strong opposition. I sat in my seat wondering about my own convictions and level of courage to sacrifice for what I believe God may be calling me to do. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Your every action must be done with love.”[1] The Christian life includes the virtues of courage, standing firm in the face of evil, and being strong in the Lord. I want these characteristics in greater measure in my life.
  2. The Power of Loving Our Enemies. Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Matthew 6:43-48) and Paul instructs us to not return evil for evil, but to repay evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Faith has triumphed, nations have secured their independence by this principle, and laws have been changed. Early Christians were known for feeding the poor, caring for their pagan neighbors’ suffering from the plague, and helping to bury their dead. No wonder that the faith kept spreading in spite of Roman persecution. Mahatma Gandhi, though not a Christian, took Jesus’ words seriously and changed the future of a nation. Martin Luther King, Jr. advanced the cause of civil rights and racial equality through his commitment to non-violence and following the teachings of Jesus. How would our community be different if we took time to listen to the pain and hurt of others who are different than we are? How might the world respond if Christians inexplicably loved others who differed from us, and especially if that love came at a cost to us?
  3. The Power of Truth and Justice. The characters in the movie insinuate that the civil rights movement had success because they knew they could prick the conscience of enough people to change things. The prophet Micah asks “What does the Lord require of you?” The answer: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Isaiah told those in his day that their religious observance of prayer and fasting was no good, because they were not living out their lives in justice. The Lord calls them to loose the bonds of wickedness, to release the oppressed, to take care of the hungry and homeless, and to come to the aid of the afflicted (see Isaiah 58). I had a pastor who used to say, “Do right! If the stars fall, do right!” Do we stand for truth even when it is unpopular with friends and family? Do we love mercy and strive for justice even if the benefits do not directly apply to us? In what ways is our community better because Christians are impacting the culture with mercy, truth, and justice across Middle Tennessee? What opportunities exist for greater improvement?

God, grant us the ability to be a people who live courageously, love daringly, and act justly.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), 1 Co 16:13–14.

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