Thursday, October 18, 2012

Worth Fighting For

Here Comes the Boom © 2012 Sony Pictures
Recently, Amber and I went to see Here Comes the Boom, the new movie starring Kevin James and Henry "the Fonz" Winkler as teachers at a school facing budget cuts. Biology teacher Scott Voss (James) was Teacher of the Year a decade ago, but seems to have lost some of the fire that once made him great. Still, when he learns that the school will soon cut the music program and force Marty Streb (Winkler) out of a job, he knows he has to do something to raise the $48,000 necessary to save the program, inspire the students and help his friend in need. The solution he finds: mixed martial arts fighting in the UFC!

It's hard to imagine Doug from The King of Queens as an inspirational athlete a la Rocky Balboa, yet I think the fact that nobody expected it is part of what makes this action-comedy work so well! And don't worry: you don't have to be a UFC fan to enjoy the movie - I'm not, and I loved it!

Despite the violence or anything else, there is a lot for Christians to like, and I put this on my "Highly Recommended" list! I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it yet and intends to, though, so be warned that while I'll try not to give too much away, this post does contain some spoilers!

Like any good Rocky film, Here Comes the Boom is about more than just the fight scenes - it's a movie with many messages. Of course, it extols the virtues of hard work, faith, determination and standing up for what's right. It also reminds us to offer dignity and respect to all people - male and female, young and old. The movie even gives a positive, helpful role to immigrants who are not US citizens, and encourages us to embrace those who are different from us.

But two lessons stand out above the rest, I think.

First is the importance of sacrificial love, illustrated in the fact that Scott is willing to put both his job and his body in real danger for something bigger than himself. That kind of determined love earns the respect of others and brings people together. Because of what he was willing to go through for his friend, Scott was able to earn greater appreciation from his students, from the woman who previously wouldn't give him the time of day (played by Salma Hayek), from other faculty, and even from some of the people he fought. One of the more subtle but touching moments in the movie comes during the last fight scene, when Scott's opponent finally offers to tap gloves with him at the start of a round as a sign of earned respect. And of course, Marty and his wife were extremely grateful for Scott's loving kindness. By the end of the film, Marty and Scott both come to refer to each other as their heroes!

All this points us to the sacrificial love Jesus taught his disciples about before he gave us the ultimate example by giving his life on the cross for our sins.

"My command is this:
Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, 
that he lay down his life for his friends."
- John 15:12-13 NIV

We give of ourselves because - as I mentioned back in May - love is more than an emotion. Love is a decision and an action. The words "I love you" are useless unless we back them up with the way we live, and in fact, love can be communicated clearly without ever speaking the words!

Standing up for what's right © 2012 Sony Pictures
Stand up and make a difference!
We also give of ourselves because that's the only way we'll ever really make a difference in this world, which is the second big point I want to emphasize.

One of my favorite scenes in Here Comes the Boom comes somewhere in the middle, when Scott jumps up on top of a desk in order to get the attention of his class. It's a move that reminds me of my favorite psychology professor when I was at Asbury, and it may remind moviegoers of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. The biology lesson is about how a stagnant cell is a bad thing, but when cells start bumping into each other, then healing can begin. It's not a very scientific explanation, but it helps us to better understand Scott's rationale for fighting in the UFC octagon instead of accepting what others may have seen as inevitable. Scott truly believes that one man can make a difference, even when others begin to doubt and tell him to give up.

"If you don’t make an effort, nothing’s ever gonna change."
- Scott Voss

Likewise, we as Christians must continue to stand up for what's right even when those around us may think we're fighting a losing battle. But we should remember, also, that we do not fight alone. Scott has Marty in his corner at every fight, and we have our friends and loved ones, as well. Scott also has a trainer in his corner, and we have the assurance that God is with us, helping us, no matter what we go through.

"Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, 
because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; 
he will not fail you or forsake you."
- Deuteronomy 31:6

And when Scott faces his hardest challenge, he can look to the stands and see the scores of students who are there to cheer him on. This reminds me of the great cloud of witnesses - the saints who have gone on before us - who watch us and cheer us on from the heavenly grandstand! (Hebrews 12:1)

Sometimes we press on even when we know we're gonna lose the battle, but just like we learn from the original Rocky, there's something to be said for going the distance - for giving it your all! And we know that in the end, if we are faithful, we will have the victory! (Matthew 24:9-13)

So we look to characters like Rocky and Scott Voss and others, and we see their great love and determination, and I hope it inspires you the way it inspires me. I hope it strengthens your resolve never to give up on doing the right thing - on defending those who feel defenseless, on loving those who feel unloved or seem unlovable - on leaving a positive mark on this world!

I'd like to hear from you:
Who inspires you? Who drives you to be a better person, to love more, or to keep going when the odds seem to be against you?
Never forget, you can make a difference, but only if you try!


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