Spoiler alert about The World’s End and the book of Romans
D and I were in the middle of a Bible study over the book of Romans when we watched The World’s End. The book of Romans has been an issue for me most of my Christian life. The questions of predestination and the conflicting information Paul writes used to make me red faced and confused. D can practically quote Romans, and when I asked Him how in the world He ever managed to study it so much He said he trusted God. He didn’t get all of it, per se, because there’s a lot to understand, and I am almost certain anyone who claims to understand it all is lying. But D was much more spiritually mature than I was. He still is. He read Romans, enjoyed it, and he let the not understood be not understood. He didn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. I hurled them both out the window without a second glance.
By the time we started the Romans Bible study, my relationship with Christ was in a much better place. I was much more willing to trust. I still have a tendency to stomp my foot and demand answers on a bad day, but I am at peace with the idea of a sovereign God even if I don’t know all the details. Now, I really love the book of Romans.
A big part of what I learned about Romans is that God’s wrath looks a lot like us getting what we want most of the time: turned over to our own selfish desires. Romans 1:24 says “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts” followed by “God gave them over to shameful lusts” in Romans 1:26, and then “God gave them over to a depraved mind” in Romans 1:28. There’s a theme: God gave them the desires of their hearts and minds and let their lust overtake them. This is what you want; here you go.
As scary as lightning and fire and disaster are, there’s not much scarier than being turned over to myself. My own self-involvement. My pride. Just me. I live in my mind. I should be in charge of nothing, and I never want to see the day I can’t turn to God and be pulled out of the mire of sin and mess in there.
It was interesting that at this point in the Bible study D brought home The World’s End, a movie about a group of former high school friends attempting to drink at 12 bars in their old hometown, finally ending up at the last one called The World’s End. They didn’t succeed at this obviously valiant task in high school, so they decided to give it another shot when they are middle aged.
Now, there is a big voice coming from the sky at the end of the movie. This voice is never identified as God, and this voice definitely does not work or love the way God does. There are really not a lot of parallels between the dictator voice and a our loving God, since the dictator voice wants to make everyone robots and control them, making them carbon copies of each other, not loving their uniqueness, the specifics of their design the way God loves us. However, there is this: the decision of both God and this voice to let the people have what they ask for.
The character played by Simon Pegg tells this big unidentified talking voice in the sky that basically, he wants what he wants and would rather have no one interfere with his desires, even though he’s screwing up everything he touches. The big voice finally says okay. Withdrawing to leave these supposedly self-sufficient characters to their own devices, the world pretty much falls apart.
“That’s the first part of Romans!”
“Yes, it is,” D said.
The good news is the second part of Romans is about being saved by grace and God being able to renew us so we are not left to our own devices, our own lusts for power and self-satisfaction, pride and envy. That’s a huge relief, because reading the first part of Romans coupled with seeing a bunch of drunk idiots abandoned to their own plans was pretty convincing; my desires are not going to lead anywhere good unless I die to myself and live for and with Christ leading my life. His desires will always be superior.
Bible verses taken from here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+1, emphasis mine