On Wednesday night, Deb and I used some free movie passes to see a movie I’ve been wanting to watch for some time – Hotel Rwanda. The movie is a true story about Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle), a Hutu hotel manager who saves the lives of over 1000 Tutsi refugees in his hotel during the 1994 genocide.
Brian McLaren has said recently that if we had the heart of Christ, this is the movie we would be urging people in our churches to see rather than The Passion. As wonderful as friends have said The Passion is, I have chosen not to see The Passion so I can’t make any comparisons. But I can say that Hotel Rwanda is surely a must-see.
The acting is wonderful, the drama is tense. But people should see the movie for more than the cinematic experience. It’s about being aware of our global neighborhood. And when the neighborhood goes bad, we can’t simply pack up and move. Nor can we shut our doors and windows and pretend it’s not there. This is it. This is our world – the one God commissioned us to tend and care.
This week our faith community spent time reflecting on Jesus’ statement on the cross, “It is finished.” For me, his statement provided the backdrop as I watched the movie.
Paul states in Colossians 2:15 that Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Upon the cross Jesus climaxed human history and Israel’s history. He fulfilled God’s creative and salvific plan. He inaugurated God’s kingdom and ushered in the dawning of the New Heavens and New Earth. “It is finished” is the same Greek word that the Septuagint (Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament) uses in Genesis 2:1-2 when it says that God finished his work of creation. In other words, Jesus has completed the Old Creation and is ushering in the New Creation.
Paul and the early Christians understood Jesus’ accomplishment. It redefined who they were. Paul viewed his life and ministry as implementing Jesus’ unique accomplishment within his world. He was forming colonies of God’s new humanity throughout the Roman Empire, communities aligned with Christ who would live God’s future life in their present world.
Watching Hotel Rwanda evoked a myriad of questions and emotions. But one question that keeps bubbling to the surface is, “What has happened in these 2000 years?” As God’s people, have we failed that badly at implementing Jesus’ accomplishment?
My shame is that I was completely unaware of the Rwandan genocide. It has taken me 11 years to become aware of the injustice and atrocities that these people faced.
If I take anything from this movie and from my reflection on Jesus’ statement, it is that I have a responsibility not to forget my place in the global neighborhood. My awareness, my prayers, my groanings must be shaped by the groaning of the Spirit within me and the groaning of creation around me (Romans 8). I hope I can do more than pray, but I know I cannot do anything less.