Film Friday Classic: Chariots of Fire

‘I want to compare faith to running in a race…’ so says the character of Eric Liddell in the film Chariots of Fire.

My dad died recently and at his funeral this week we had the music from The Great Escape at the start and Raiders of the Lost Ark at the end. Two films dad loved and watched many times. My dad loved war films and cowboy films and I watched many with him as I was growing up. I think in some ways he instilled his love of film in me. But my dad loved God too, his faith was crucial to him. It began when he was a young choir boy in Stoke-on-Trent and over the years grew so that it became the core of his being. I learned so much from him.

He loved Chariots of Fire too – another film famous for its music of course, and a film which features so much about faith in Jesus. It’s not easy to make a good movie about Christianity, things can so easily err on the side of cheesiness, but this film won awards – for its screenplay and for the picture as a whole. It tells the stories of two athletes, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. Abrahams was a Jew and Liddell a Christian, and they were both fast, fast, fast. When producer David Puttnam discovered their true story and went on to make the film he described it as being a bit like taking a shower – it was refreshing to make a film about people doing something because they believed in it. There are many great lines in Chariots of Fire, but here’s just a few from a little talk Eric gives in the rain after winning a race…

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Eric Liddell was honest and down-to-earth about the race of faith. It wasn’t easy. He knew that, but he spoke about it in such a way that it made sense for the folks of his day. As did Jesus. All of Jesus’s parables helped the folks of his day relate to the God who understands reality. Who knows about dinners being burnt and life being hard. One of the memorable quotes from Chariots is this one, ‘God made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure.’ What, I wonder, do you do that makes you sense God’s pleasure? What gifts do you have that point you back to the Creator who gave them to you? May not win you any medals, but they are vital to God and to others.

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