The kids are all right. At least that’s what the movie of the same name wants you to think. Playing in limited release in seven theatres in five cities (New York, San Francisco, LA, Chicago, and Toronto), The Kids Are All Right centers on the lives of two moms (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) and their two children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson). The children, conceived through artificial insemination, decide to track down their biological father (Mark Ruffalo). In a series of events — some funny and some moving — the lives of the two children, two moms, and one dad all become emotionally intertwined. Not likely to ever come to a theatre near me, the movie opens in eleven new cities this weekend. According to Deadline Hollywood, The Kids Are All Right recorded the year’s highest per screen average when it was released last weekend.
Even though I don’t look for too many Americans to spend their hard-earned money to see this film, it’s not for lack of glowing reviews from leading film critics throughout the country. The headline for one review in particular, by Movieline’s Stephanie Zacharek (read full review here), caught my attention. She simply titles her review thus:
Brilliant Kids Are All Right Brims With Grace, Smarts, and Laughs
Brims with grace. What an accolade! When we examine our lives and the lives of our churches – actions, words, and even motives – can we say that we “brim with grace?” More importantly, when non-Christians turn the Biblical spotlight on us (whether or not they actually believe the Bible), would there be enough evidence to convict us of living grace-filled lives toward others? Oh, we might overflow with grace toward people we know who are already all right. However, do we extend grace toward those who we know are not all right, regardless of how they got to be all wrong? Or do we instead show grace only to those who are misguided on minor issues, but withhold that same grace to those we believe are really, truly wrong on the major issues of the day like homosexuality, abortion, alcohol, and even divorce?
When Mark Ruffalo, one of the stars of The Kids Are All Right, plays the bigot card, slamming supporters of traditional marriage as nothing more than caged animals fighting against modernity, can we then, as followers of Christ, refuse to give grace to him or to anyone like him who similarly denigrates or mocks our values and beliefs? Many of you might answer that question by asking, “Who is Mark Ruffalo?” I can certainly understand that. However, when people like Ruffalo, or Janeane Garafalo or Bill Maher ridicule our faith and beliefs, especially when it comes to issues like homosexuality, we are often tempted to play by their rules, returning insult for insult.
Instead of leading with grace, we lead with law. Instead of throwing down actions and words of love, we spew out cutting words of hate. (And lest anyone misunderstand, I don’t believe that teaching or preaching that the Bible views homosexual acts as wrong and sinful is hate speech, although I’m sure that just by writing that statement I will be accused by some of practicing “hate speech.”) We are called to play with higher standards than the world uses. In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Paul tells his young protégé,
The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.
Is it hard to be kind to those with whom we have disagreements? Sometimes. Do we find it near impossible to be patient with difficult people? More often than we care to admit. But we must remember that we do not – in fact cannot – change anyone’s heart. Only God can do that. We are called to gently teach those who oppose the truth. We teach, not just with words, but with actions. And God, in His sovereignty, can change how people think and feel.
So, the next time you are challenged by someone who opposes the truth, someone who calls you a bigot or worse (maybe even to your face), how will you respond? When you are insulted and mocked for your beliefs, what card will you play? Try playing the grace card. And let God change hearts and minds.