1. Former prime minister Adam Lang is in the process of producing his autobiography when his ghost writer dies unexpectedly. So a second ‘Ghost’ is called in. As the Ghost delves into the former PM’s past, disturbing facts begin to come to light. Soon the Ghost’s own life is under threat.
In the first interview with the former PM, Adam Lang tells the Ghost that his life is different to that of an ordinary man. He feels so out of touch, he doesn’t drive, or carry money. He says it’s the worst thing about his job. The one thing that we can say about Jesus is that he was never out of touch. He was very much an ordinary guy, growing up with the other kids, learning a trade, experiencing life under Roman oppression, paying exorbitant taxes and experiencing hard financial times. He was often lonely and misunderstood, but he also went to parties, told jokes and bantered with his friends and enemies. Jesus understands normal life. Have you considered this before? Have you reflected much on the way he can understand when you are embarrassed, lost, angry, excited, bored, afraid, frustrated or concerned about the future? This is an image of God who has sweat on his brow, bruises on his knuckles and a smile on his face.
2. When Adam Lang tells him of the difficult things about being PM, the Ghost wants to include this in the book, but the PM thinks it will make him look an idiot. He wants to present a different face to the world. An acceptable Prime Minister kind of face.
We are so used to the notion of spin these days, putting on a public front, giving the people what they want. Oddly, we know it’s spin, we know the pictures are airbrushed, but we still go with it. We even, sometimes, aspire to it. The Bible never indulges in this. It’s full of bad people struggling to be good. And their stories are writ large. The heroes don’t just trip up, they fall on their faces in the crap. They are courageous one day, cowards the next, fighting for truth one moment, telling lies the next. They are strong and weak, happy and miserable, trusting and doubting. Jesus’s friends regularly experienced this kind of rollercoaster life. As I’m sure you do. I know I do anyway. Sometimes, though, the faith is presented as being about success and gloss, about everything being all solved and okay. Why is this? Why do we feel the need to sometimes put on a front with others? In church, at work, in the unemployment queue, with our friends and colleagues? It’s not easy to be honest and men can be particularly bad at it. Are there ways we can help each other?
3. The Ghost is called upon to write an urgent press release, and Adam Lang tells him he must not make the former PM sound defensive, or cocky, or bitter or angry, and he must not say that he is glad of the chance to clear his name. To which the Ghost replies, ‘You’re not defensive, but you’re not cocky, you’re not angry, but you’re not pleased… then what exactly are you?’
Sometimes Christianity can come across as being about all the things we are not. Many people think of the Ten Commandments as easily defined in three words ‘Thou shalt not…’ Yet when Jesus was asked about the commandments he didn’t quote the list from Exodus. He instead refereed to Deuteronomy, and turned them into ‘Thou shalt’ kind of things. ‘Love God with everything you’ve got and love each other,’ he said, giving us something positive to focus on. Interesting to note here that when Jesus said ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ he didn’t so much mean love others as much as you love yourself, he meant love your neighbour as if he is you, as if he is the same as you – your friend, part of your group, part of your life. See beyond any boundaries, if you like.
I often find it easier to complain about the negative things, than to do something positive. Easier to react to the ‘non-Christian’ things than to do something good to help others. Easier to be a ‘Thou shalt not…’ kind of person. How about you? How do you define your faith? What does it mean for us to ‘Love God and our neighbour’?
4. As the plot of the movie unravels the Ghost finds himself in dark, dangerous waters. The more he delves into the past the more he finds hidden things that suggest the first ghost writer may have died in suspicious circumstances, and therefore he too could get him killed. As it goes on this thriller steps up a gear and things start to look extremely perilous. The Ghost is battling against greater forces than he expected.
There is an age-old saying, ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Jesus encountered this in the form of the Sadducees who were intent on holding onto their grasp of the temple in Jerusalem, along with the money and the power that went with it. Jesus threatened this on several levels. He and his cousin John offered forgiveness without the need to visit the temple and pay for sacrifices. He talked of the temple being destroyed, even predicted that it would be, and he turned over the tables in temple court as a sign of this. He argued with the Sadducees in public, showed a kind of righteous contempt for their values and way of life. These things led him into dark waters and ultimately got him killed. The Sadducees manipulated the Roman governor, accusing Jesus of sedition against Caesar and the Roman authorities. The ‘problem’ with the kind of ‘power’ that Jesus demonstrated is that it’s based in vulnerability, humility and weakness. I would rather be strong, but Jesus calls us to something else entirely. What do you think about this?
5. Many journalists spend their time uncovering the secrets and lies they suspect are hidden in the murky world of international politics. We love to read about such things, and in the case of this movie (and book), they make cracking good entertainment. Jesus spoke of secret things and hidden things. But his attitude was a little different. He called the precious things of God’s kingdom ‘secrets’ which he was passing on to those who wanted to follow him. He said that the unseen good things we do are noted by God and applauded in the kingdom of heaven. And he also said that one day other hidden things will be shouted from rooftops, or as we might say, plastered all over the internet.
What’s he mean by that? In the context of what he is saying about being light for the world (in Mark chapter 4), it’s likely that what he means is this – the good news he is telling his followers in secret, will soon ‘go public’ – this won’t be concealed – this will be brought out into the light and go all the way round the globe. Not least these days, via the internet.
So in Jesus’s mind the good things of the kingdom are like secrets to be passed on, and our discreet acts of kindness are incredibly good things, which notch up ‘points in heaven’. How easy do you find it to do good things secretly? I often want to be recognised and awarded for those moments when I go out of my way to do something good. How about you?