The Theology of CREED


At The Movies: CREED

What We Can Learn About God and Ourselves

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope that you had a chance to stuff your faces with turkey and mashed potatoes in the company of friends and family. After all, the things we should be most thankful for are those closest to us and that we can have a table full of food.

I had a fantastic Thanksgiving with some new and old friends and my mom's tried and true pumpkin pie. I also had the opportunity to see the film Creed after waking from my food coma the next day.

One gift God has given me is the ability to see Him in stories. As any child in Sunday school can tell you, we are made in His image. I think those finger prints of creativity make their way into the stories we tell. I have seen God in anything from Superman: Doomsday to Thor to Star Trek to The Patriot.

As I sat in the glorious AMC Dine-In theater with my seat reclined about to take in this modern folk tale, I had merely prepared myself to see a film that made me glad to be a man. What I actually saw was a window into the unique way God has wired men.

Before moving on, I should mention that this is spolier territory.........

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Still with me? Good!

Creed is a fairly straightforward coming of age story about a young man seeking to understand his place in the world. Like most of these types of stories, there is a bit of a challenge, some adversity, and an overcoming of the odds. Also like many of these films, the hero has a tenuous relationship with his father.

If you have seen Rocky 4, you will know that Apollo Creed, the father of CREED's Adonis, is killed in fierce combat with the mad Russian played so eloquently and hatefully by Dolph Lundgren (a bastion of 80's super-macho film). In the new film, we are informed that prior to meeting his untimely end at the fists of the golden one, Apollo had an affair the result of which is an illegitimate son. But sadly, Adonis was born after the bout that killed his father.

Growing up without a father has left Adonis directionless, unaffirmed, and angry. As a child, he is looking for a fight. He will fight anyone and he thinks he will win. After the death of his mother, he ends up in foster care but his violent nature makes him a hazard to normal foster parents. This leads him to a juvenile detention center. It is in this moment, Apollo's widow takes pity on him and invites him to live with her. A mother's care heals many of his wounds and he grows up in a much better environment, but there is still something missing.

As an adult, Adonis seems to have it all. He lives in a mansion with his adoptive mother, he drives a nice care, and has just gotten a promotion at work. But something inside of him is calling out for more. He isn't sure exactly what he wants or needs, but he knows it will not come to him in the comfort he has found. He is looking for a deeper connection.

As someone who is developing a men's ministry on the shoulders of men like John Eldredge and Paul Coughlin (if you haven't, read their books), I am keenly aware of the unique relationship that God has given to men and their sons. God has designed it from the beginning that there is something critical to a man that only his father can give him. Think back to Adam; God himself had to breathe life into him. From generation to generation, boys need to have their true identity spoken in to being and affirmed by their fathers. Even Jesus received a blessing from his father before beginning his ministry. This is what Adonis is looking for.

Without realizing it, our titular Creed sets out to find out who he is in relation to his father. Because Apollo died before he was born, Adonis never received that affirmation. He was never told he had what it takes or that he was a man. He did what many of us who don't get that from our fathers do; he set out to prove himself. But like many of us, the battles were empty. Despite winning every match he fought, there was still something missing. This is where Rocky comes in.

Adonis needs to know that he has value and the he is not a mistake. Since his earthly father could not offer that to him, he needs a spiritual father. This is what he needed from Rocky, even if he didn't realize it at the outset. Meanwhile, Rocky is dealing with his own struggles of feeling alone. He has lost his wife, his best friend, and he cannot fully relate to an estranged son. He has lost purpose for his life. He needs to know he has value.

It is interesting that God often calls us to either teach or be taught, sometimes both at the same time. There is something special about relationship. That is why we were created in the first place, so it makes sense He would use us to help others. In this film, Rocky and Adonis need each other. Adonis needs Rocky to tell him he loves him and that he has what it takes and Rocky needs Adonis to teach him that he still has something to give.

This is at the core of the struggle all men face; do we have what it takes? So many men don't believe they do and try all number of things to prove to others that they do all the while being afraid someone might find them out as a phony. Expensive cars, televisions, unhealthy levels of exercise, and affairs are just some of the fruit that comes from living out of this fear. Families, communities, and whole nations suffer because of this.

Fortunately for Adonis, Rocky starts to love him like a father and gives him what he needs to finally take true steps into manhood (initiation). And while he did not win the battle with "Pretty" Ricky Conlan, he won the more important battle for his identity. He had nothing to prove and thusly could truly prove his worth. One of my favorite greek words comes from Ephesians 6. Dynamis typically means mmense raw power, but it can also mean proven, as if by the sword. By going through the fire, you know what the metal is made of.

The moral of the story is wemen need each other. We need a father (whether natural or spiritual) and we need to be fathers to others. It is a unique gift we can give to someone else. Take time to find someone out there you can Rocky to. Or maybe you need a Rocky in your life. Both roles are critical if we want to go the distance.

#theology #movies #creed #inspiration #johneldredge #paulcoughlin #men #atthemovies

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