Friday, October 7, 2011

Wuv, twu wuv. (Love. True Love)

I've always loved 50 First Dates. Right from the first time that I watched it, I recognised that it was the best Hollywood depiction of unconditional love. Seven Pounds, however, was the worst. Worst by far because it lures the viewer into believing that the actions of the main protagonist are born out of deep, pure love when it fact, they're not. Not at all.

If you haven't seen either, let me give you a brief run down


50 First Dates is a love story between a woman, Lucy, who's lost her short term memory and a man, Henry, who has to woo her every day because she has forgotten their previous dates hence the title; each meeting is a first date for the woman but certainly not for the man. Every day starts with a video reminder of the accident that caused her memory loss and that she is in a relationship with Henry. After the inevitable 'boy loses girl' part of the love story, Lucy eventually starts to form long term, subconscious memories of Henry, and the 'boy gets girl back' part begins. The movie ends with Lucy and Henry a few years later, married and with a little daughter. Lucy is still reminded daily through the video of her accident and her relationship with Henry.

Seven Pounds is about a man, Ben (he uses his brother's identity so really his name is Tim) who causes an car accident in which seven people die. He spends the rest of his life attempting to redeem himself by donating his own body organs (or money) to people. Seven people, in fact. He picks people or is told about people who need organs or help in some way and then conducts investigations to find out if they are worthy. He falls in love with his final organ donation recipient, Emily, but is determined to finish his mission. His final organ donations require his life so he commits suicide and his corneas and heart are donated. Emily receives his heart.

I found 50 First Dates profoundly biblical. Henry's love for Lucy is unconditional. Complete. And never ending. He choses her. Pursues her. Cares for her. Loves her. All of her flaws and even her inability to love him back do not dissuade him. Even at the very end of the movie, she is shocked to find out that she is married and has a daughter. This has meant years of unconditional love on Henry's side. Every day he's had to live with a woman who doesn't remember him and can't understand how she got to where she is.

I understand, of course, that some might view this as quite perverse and an abuse of power. The movie makes clear that there is something changing within Lucy to indicate that she is forming long-term memories of Henry but obviously not at the same rate that he is.

I think God loves us like this. Despite our sinfulness and complete inability to love him, God loves us. It was while were were still enemies that God saved us (Romans 5:10). We have all sinned and fallen short of his glory but it was at this time that God saves those who believe in him (Romans 2:23-24). God chose his children because of his love for them and gave them saving faith (Ephesians 1:3-5) Now I'm nailing my colours to the mast here because that was just a declaration of Calvinist predestination. I don't believe that because I love God I am justified from my sin. I believe that God loved me and so I am justified from my sin. His love for me is not conditional on my love for him.

Seven Pounds has its core that love and sacrifice should only be given to those people who are worthy. Those people who can prove that they will do good with their opportunities and privileges. Those people who deserve love and sacrifice. Ben's whole life is an attempt to atone for his own mistakes. His 'love' for his organ donation recipients is based on their worthiness. He only loves them to help his own need for atonement. At one point in the movie, Ben rejects a man who needed an organ donation because finds out that the man has been mistreating his clients in an aged care home. Ben decides that this man is not worthy of his donation. God doesn't love like that. We know that God loves murderers, drunks and thieves (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) as well as the hard-working doctors, parents and teachers. God's love is not based on our actions or our words. As much as it pains the world, God doesn't love only good people.

I know that you can't make clear cut parallels between movies and life, let alone biblical doctrine. But I was just struck by the polemical ideas of love between these two movies. I'm sure in the eyes of the world 50 First Dates portrays ridiculous love that is ultimately unrequited whereas Seven Pounds is probably seen as more rational - giving to those who deserve it. But I see it completely the opposite. True love is unconditional.

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