What's Christianity Really About?

My favorite movie of all time, hands down, is Forrest Gump.  I love that movie for so many reasons.  But one of the primary reasons is the love story between Forrest and his childhood sweetheart, Jenny.  Jenny is his neighbor and the only real friend he has as a kid.  Everyone else makes fun of him.  From the first moment, Forrest falls in love with her, even though she just thinks of him as a friend.

Forrest is so madly in love with her that when they grow up and go their separate ways and he ends up in the jungles of Viet Nam with people shooting at him, all he can think about is Jenny.  Every single day from Viet Nam he writes her long letters, pouring out his heart and soul.  The one thing he’s looking forward to most is a letter from her back.  After a few months, some of his buddies give him a hard time about the fact that she hasn’t written him even one single letter.  Defending her, he adamantly insists: “I know she’ll write me back when she has time.” 

Then the movie cuts to Jenny and you see that she is about to get on a VW bus to head out to the West Coast, San Francisco.  She’s become involved in the hippie culture of the 60’s.  Oh Jenny has plenty of time—she just doesn’t give Forrest a second thought! 

While Forrest is in Viet Nam his unit is ambushed.  Heroically, he basically saves his entire company, returning again and again under heavy fire to the jungle to rescue each one of them.  He gets seriously wounded in the process.  When he finally gets back to the U.S., he’s awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.  So he goes to the White House and the President pins the medal of honor on him. 

After the ceremony, Forrest just begins wandering around Washington, D.C. and he ends up at the Lincoln Memorial.  Unwittingly, he wanders into an anti-war protest.  In the throngs of people, he gets shoved toward the podium.  Because he’s all dressed up in his military regalia and they assume he’s a disgruntled vet, some of the leaders of the protest push him up in front of the microphone to speak. 

As he’s standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where MLK gave his famous “I have a dream” speech, thousands of people are waiting to hear what he has to say.  Then, in the murmuring of the waiting crowd, one voice stands out.  It’s Jenny.  She’s in the middle of the protest and begins calling out to him.  Instantly, Forrest jumps off the podium and pushes through the crowds.  Then, to get to her, he jumps right into the water of the reflecting pool that is between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.  Embracing her, he says: “It was the happiest moment of my life!”  Then the two of them walk around the city getting reacquainted.       

Later in the day, Jenny introduces Forrest to her boyfriend, Wes.  That breaks Forrest’s heart because all he’s ever wanted to be was Jenny’s boyfriend.  But Forrest is very gracious—until a little while later when he watches Wes haul off and hit Jenny.  And then Forrest, this very mild mannered, quiet, peaceable man becomes crazed, nearly beating Wes to a bloody pulp for putting his hands on Jenny. 

But Jenny, instead of leaving Wes, gets angry at Forrest for “interfering” in her relationship.  She tells Forrest to stay away from her and goes back to the man who is beating her.  Right before Forrest leaves, he takes the medal of honor off and gives it to Jenny. 

Years pass and through a series of unbelievable circumstances Forrest becomes a millionaire.  Showing up at just about every significant moment of history of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, he has all these incredible life experiences.  And yet all he can think about is Jenny.  Every single day he thinks about her more and more.  And just as he says that all he hopes for is that, wherever she is, Jenny is happy, the movie cuts to Jenny who is strung out, doing lines of cocaine.  She’s become an addict and is nearly suicidal. 

Not knowing where else to turn, she shows up at Forrest’s front door.  She’s gone through rehab, but she has no place to stay.  Without any judgment, Forrest immediately takes her in.  All Jenny can do is sleep.  Because she’s still rehabbing from the drugs, she sleeps all day and all night.  But all Forrest can say is how good it is to have her home—"It was the happiest moment of my life!”

As Jenny starts to recover, they rekindle their friendship.  Things are going so well, Forrest eventually  works up the nerve to ask Jenny to marry him.  But Jenny freaks out.  Without telling him, she runs away early one morning while he’s still asleep.  Once again, she breaks his heart.

At the very end of the movie, after not hearing from her for years, out of the blue Jenny writes a letter to Forrest.  She invites him to come to where she’s living now and see her.  She’s got some big news to tell him.  When he arrives, one of the big pieces of news she tells him is that she’s very sick.  This part of the movie takes place in the early 80’s.  She doesn’t know it, but what she has is A.I.D.S.  The moment she tells Forrest hat she’s sick, that she’s dying, Forrest insists: “You come home with me.  I’ll take care of you.”  And that’s what he does.  It’s beautiful.  He takes the best care of her. 

Finally, as she gets sicker and sicker, closer to death, she turns to Forrest and asks him to marry her.  On the day of their wedding Forrest says: “It was the happiest moment of my life!”

Every time I watch this movie I get so ticked off at Jennie.  I mean, how could she treat Forrest the way she does?  She never gives him a second thought.  She only turns to him when she needs something.  She treats him like dirt.  Here’s the one person that loves her unconditionally.  The one person that is truest to her.  And what does she do?  She treats him worst of all.  She constantly breaks his heart. 

I get so angry with Jennie…until I realize that I’m Jenny.  That we’re all Jenny.  That when it comes to God, we do the same thing all the time.  We usually don’t give God a second thought.  Unless we hit rock bottom or need something, we completely take Him for granted  We treat him like dirt.       

Then I look at Forrest and I think: “Why don’t you just let her go?”  Just cut your losses and find somebody who will love you back the way you love them.  But Forrest can’t.  He’s so madly in love with Jenny, he will never give up on her—in the hopes that, one day, she might finally love him the way he loves her.  And lo and behold, miracle of miracles, that’s exactly what happens. 

Then I realize that this is exactly how God loves us.  He is so madly in love with us that He will never give up on us either—in the hopes that one day we will love Him back in the same way.

See, this is what Christianity is really all about.  Christianity isn’t about rules or rituals.  It’s about falling in love with God.  It’s a love story, the greatest love story of all.  It’s about the love of God for His people, for us.

It’s about a God who is so madly in love with us that, even though we usually don’t give Him a second thought, even though we treat Him like dirt, He will take on human flesh, become one of us, and then, on a little hill outside of Jerusalem, give His life to win us back.

This is what Christianity is really all about—the greatest love story ever told. 

What has your experience with Christianity been like?  What have you been led to believe it’s all about?  I’d love to hear your comments.  You can go to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and leave them there.  I look forward to hearing from you!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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