A pivotal scene in the film, however, prompted me – as it will many in its audience – to ask a question of significance: “What would I do if I were in that one character’s shoes?”
My answer to the question led me further to an epiphany about God, about Christ and about the creation of a place none of us would ever wish to truly ponder, a place called “hell.”
In this pivotal scene – and I surrender no spoiler in discussing it in these terms – the president of the United States is threatened with the prospect of watching his son be tortured or killed. The movie’s villain hopes plying the president’s love for his son will extract from the commander-in-chief a code that can be used to wreak mass destruction on a global scale. The choice threatened: to watch his son be tortured or watch the world burn.
What a brutal choice for a father to face.
Yet what would I, the father of sons and daughters, do in this character’s place? What would I say to my son if he were placed upon the terrorist’s torture block, knowing that negotiating for my son’s life would mean surrendering the lives of millions?
I sat in the parking lot after the film and pondered the question.
Yet it didn’t take long for me to come to an answer. Perhaps my answer would be different in the heat of the moment. I don’t pretend to think I’d have this clarity when my son’s screams were ringing in my ears, but in the stillness of a darkened car in a darkened parking lot, the answer came to me.
What would I say to my son?
“My son,” I heard myself saying, “I love you, and I’m sorry, but remember John 3:16. I am the father, and you are my son, and I love you.”
John 3:16: “For [the Father] so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son …”
The answer settled in my soul – painful, agonizing, but right in my heart. I would not spare my son if it meant the death of millions of other sons.
But I can tell you this much: With the sound of my son’s agony resounding in my mind, I would remember every blow, every howl, every scream. And if I somehow made it out of that situation alive, president or no, if I caught that terrorist who tortured my son, no law, no badge, no gun, no force on earth would shield that man from the full measure of my wrath, burning and heaped down upon his head for all eternity.
And with that thought, I suddenly understood hell.
For the Father did seek to save the world, and the price was the brutal torture and death of His Son at the hands of men.
If God is a God of love, and He loves His Son, then we men, above all, have sound and good reason to fear the Father’s eternal wrath. It could not be otherwise and God to be a God of love.
And in that fury, that imagined rage I felt for briefest moment, I asked myself, what would satisfy my wrath? What would stay this father’s hand from a vengeance most fierce and horrible?
One thing. Only one thing. If my son, somehow brought back to life, were to say to me, “It’s OK, Dad. This one is with me. I forgive him.”
Then, and only then, would that man escape my wrath.
According to Scripture, we are the torturers, the terrorists, the brutal slayers of the Son of God, and the Father’s wrath is in store for us. Not just for those that lived in Jesus’ day, but for the whole of humanity.
Yet so magnificent is the love of Christ for his enemies that He said, “Father, forgive them.”
Somehow, Christ, come back to life, is willing to say to His Father, “It’s OK, Dad. This one is with me. I forgive him.”
The question is, of course, are you with the Son? Have you placed your only hope of salvation in His intercession on your behalf before His Father? Or do you persist in torturing Him?