Here is my review of Paul, Apostle of Christ, released by Affirm Films; I really enjoyed it. Prior to going to the showing, I hadn’t read any reviews and went in only knowing what I know about St Paul. I expected the movie to be about St Paul and his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus to persecute and kill Christians. I thought there’d be the martyr of St Stephen as well.
Surely those stories are in the movie, but not as one would expect, and are weaved in during the movie to illustrate a point I hadn’t seen as well as build some of St Paul’s character. Instead, we start with seeing St Paul, fully converted with a vigor and joy for Christ amidst the horrible circumstances of Rome’s bloody killing of a loving burgeoning Christian community. The movie is not about St Paul mainly, but rather the growing of Christianity during troubled times. St Paul is the guide that everyone looks to who is illuminated by Christ and St Luke is the servant that risks everything to spread out the teachings from St Paul.
It is truly amazing to think how Christianity grew so fast and so far despite major opposition.
We get to see St Paul as a man that amongst every good reason to want to lay down and die and to shut his mouth, beautifully and dutifully carries out Christ’s work. An unwavering love of fellow man is on full display. Its not a coming of age story, where at the end, we see Paul going out to do his good works, rather, we start with Paul having done his good works and we get to know the best version, the final flesh version of St Paul. By showing St Paul in his fully realized role, we get to see what it means to be a saint and we can better realize our aspirations at our own sainthood pursuit (which we all should strive for in life).
The story follows St Luke mostly, partners with St Paul, who is tending to a community that is hidden within Rome, surrounded by enemies. The Christian Community fiercely wants to return hate with love as Christ has taught. While widows and orphans are cast aside, the Christians take them in. When faced with death, the Christians persevere through it, refusing to abandon their city, knowing without Christ’s love and His people, the city will fall further into sin. Some in the community want to rebel and kill but we can hear the nonviolence of the Christ coming through.
Even as I watch the movie, how predictable for Hollywood would it be if there were an uprising and the Christians won out. The strange thing is though, that’s not how the movie unfolded and not how Christ conquered. If you want the Christians to up rise, you’ll find yourself with the Jews that wanted Jesus to come into Jerusalem to rule as King, not be crucified. You’ll be the one shouting, come down from that cross! Christ came in with a bold proclamation of love and won in such a counterintuitive, non-worldly way.
My favorite part of the movie is when we see St Paul reject an uprising. St Paul comments that he knows what its like to hate a group, hunt them down and kill them. Paul, as Saul prior to his conversion, hated the Christians and he killed them and by doing so, wounded his soul to a level he can only withstand through Christ’s mercy and forgiveness. As the Christians cried out for someone to save them from Paul (Saul), Christ sent Paul (Saul). Who better now 30 years later, in Rome, to speak from knowledge of the costs of hate then St Paul?
There is also a warden of the jail that houses St Paul that is struggling emotionally as his young daughter dies of an illness. The prefect is sacrificing to the Roman gods to no avail and his wife is blaming him for a lack of faith. I found myself thinking that Jesus was going to save the young girl and convert the prefect in a dramatic way. I expected the candles on the alter of the false god to be blown out, the sun light to darken and the prefect to run to Christ.
Instead, St Luke, a physician, comes to the girl’s aid at the time of need to save the girl. How such is life! That’s how life works with Christ, he works through others and a conversion occurs. We are unsure if the prefect repents, but it would seem that he in fact does start turning to Christ and makes St Paul’s suffering easier, although not such that he can spare the saint’s life. We often expect Christ to swoop in like superman and save the day, yet the Holy Spirit and the angles are hard at work, saving the day in a much more perfect and no less dramatic way.
Why doesn’t Christ save Paul? There are some that are called to a higher purpose, to live a dramatic live, even risking life, and losing life, for a greater purpose. St Paul gives his life to Christ and is willing to pay the highest price, death. We are taught by St Paul’s life and we get to see it on full display in this movie.
Are there holes in this movie, probably, but I did love how we get to see true Christian faith, amongst major adversity, as they keep the faith. Truly, those Christians and St Paul, fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. God Bless!