When Something is Really Real

A movie has to have a lot of merit before I’ll recommend it to a friend, and even more before I’ll recommend it to the general public. But this morning I found one that meets both standards.

It’s called Arranged, and it tells the story of an unlikely friendship – between Rochel, an Orthodox Jew, and Nasira, a Muslim, who both live in Brooklyn and teach in a public school. To everyone’s surprise, and several people’s indignation, the two girls find that they understand each other, and soon they realize that there is one weighty common ground between them – arranged marriages which haven’t yet come to fruition.

Zoe Lister Jones as Rochel, and Francis Benhamou as Nasira

This isn’t intended to be a movie review, but I have to tell you – go watch this film. It’s not a Christian movie (which I think is implied if you just read the previous paragraph) but it’s poignant and sweet and investing. I’d be hard-pressed to name a better-acted movie from recent years.

The movie’s tagline is “Friendship has no religion.” It makes a valid and much-needed point about loving others, even when you don’t agree with them. The two girls respect each other unconditionally, even in the face of ignorance and disdain, and their commitment is touching.

That said, it made me think about something.

In one scene, Nasira accompanies Rochel to a cemetery, where she prays for guidance and speaks to a passed relative, presumably a grandparent. As she sways on the spot and whispers, holding her scriptures, Nasira stands behind, respectful and quiet.

I wondered to myself, “What is Nasira thinking, right now?”

If she really believes that her beliefs are true, then she believes that Rochel’s are wrong. If they are friends, then Nasira cares about her. And if she cares about her, she cares about her eternal standing.

If that’s all true, then there’s a logical disparity; Nasira is respectfully sitting back, watching her friend engage in activities which she believes are wrong and which lead away from eternal peace.

Maybe she is open to the possibility that Rochel’s religious concepts are right, and her own are wrong. But if she’s not sure, then why is she submitting to an arranged marriage? Why is she wearing a hijab?

It doesn’t make sense.

A person who believes that salvation only comes one way cannot have peace about a loved one not believing in that way. They can love that person – and in fact, they must. But that is something different. When Rochel prayed over a grave, it wasn’t the right time for Nasira to pipe up and correct her. That wouldn’t have been loving.

But there should have been a time when the girls expressed how they really felt about each other’s religions. People of opposing beliefs can easily have respectful, meaningful, and loving conversations about those beliefs. I know. I’ve done it. In fact, to not bring up that conversation is the opposite of loving.

I am not saying that Nasira should be hounding Rochel until she gives in, or vice versa. Let’s say Rochel and Nasira had a heart-to-heart about what they believed, each hoping the other would convert, but not pressing, and both girls decided to stay committed to their religions. Okay. Maybe you have had a conversation like that. Okay. Cause here’s the thing; it’s their choice.

But it’s a choice that we can offer in a concrete way. Maybe they’ve been searching, in their hearts, for years, and when we say God’s name, it lights up for them. Maybe they haven’t been searching, or maybe they are intentionally not searching. Still, what does it hurt to mention it? It’s an awful disservice to the Lord who saved us to think that He’s not worth mention when we have nothing to lose (and we usually don’t).

One of my pastors likes to ask, “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” A person who really believes there is a chair in the room will not hesitate to sit on it. And if we see a person getting ready to sit down on a chair that doesn’t exist, shouldn’t we say something?


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