Beyond the Mask is the latest Christian film release in what has already been a summer relatively filled with Christian films…and it’s a good one. It’s a fun action and intrigue, historical fiction kind of movie kind of in the vain of National Treasure. It’s a good, clean, fun romp that also has some messages to share along the way about redemption.
A former mercenary for slave traders, Will finds that his former life keeps catching up with him. He had hoped that assuming the identity of a dead vicar would allow him a new chance at life, and in some ways it did. It opened his eyes to a different life. It introduced him to the Lord and His people. It gave him a chance at love. His life swap with the vicar was a start, and it foreshadowed what needed to happen, but it wasn’t enough. He could assume the vicar’s identity, but deep down he was still William Reynolds. His sins were not paid for. Bad men were still hunting him. And he could not fully give himself to Charlotte because he had a horrible secret hanging over him.
What he really needed, he eventually realized, to accept a swap with Christ. Christ paid the debt for his sins, and he took on the holiness and life of Christ. When that happened, he was free from his past. He was free to love. He was free from shame and guilt. In the meanwhile though, swapping lives with the vicar was a start. It gave him a taste of what he longed for. His new life, though a fantasy, was still attractive and intriguing. It was awkward and foreign for the former slave trader to pose as a priest, but it was good practice. He was learning love, care for the elderly and needy, peace, God’s word… all manner of good things that would serve him well in life.
God tells us to “put on holiness” and to “be holy as I am holy”—it’s not that it comes naturally. We are just as awkward as Will when we “pretend” to be Christ. Nevertheless, even though it’s awkward and even though it’s pretend (because we aren’t Christ), it’s good practice. The more we practice it, the more attractive the life of holiness becomes, the more natural it is for us to be like Christ.
The thing is, Will still felt he had to earn his redemption and Charlotte’s love. He kept thinking that if he could do a good enough job of becoming the vicar, or of avenging the wrongs he and the East India Trading Company had committed, eventually he’d earn his redemption and the right to be loved. Charlotte knew this wasn’t so. “Neither redemption nor love can ever be earned. They are gifts to be given freely, from God and from my heart to yours;” she told him.
All of Will’s efforts to redeem himself failed. Not only that, but he thought God failed. “Reverend, I had a deal with God, but it turns out the name William Reynolds was too evil for even him to redeem.” But God hadn’t failed him, he just had to wait on God’s perfect timing. In the end, his redemption was not something he could earn, but something he had to receive…it was something God provided, a gift. “I have tried to redeem my name, but I have strived in vain. … God gave me his name for mine.” In the end, Will came to realize that his redemption came in another life-swap…the vicar’s life had given him a start, but it couldn’t pay for his sins, only the life of Jesus could do that.
If you’re looking for a fun, family movie, and prefer to find one with some Christian themes, Beyond the Mask is for you!
Questions for Discussion:
- Even though pretending to be the vicar was a lie, why was it still good practice for Will?
- How is it helpful for a person to pretend to be something better than they are? If you were going to pretend to be something better than you were, what would that look like? Who or what would you imitate?
- Will swapped lives with 3 people (I skipped the second in this discussion)—the vicar, Jeremiah and Jesus. What did he gain from swapping lives with these people? How did the first two swaps make the idea of the “exchanged life” with Christ make more sense?
- Do you tend to try to earn your salvation, redemption, love, etc? Or do you receive those from God as gifts? Why do you think we want to earn them verses receive them?