With the rising popularity of MMA (mixed martial arts) and the growing fan base for what is called the UFC (ultimate fighting championship) it’s no surprise that a film has come out about two fighters competing in the UFC. And it seems like nothing new: A movie focusing on personal conflict that get’s resolved “in the ring”. I must admit, I had very little desire to see Warrior. One begins to reminisce about classics like Stalone’s Rocky, or the more recent Cinderella Man (among my favorites) staring Russell Crowe – movies I enjoyed, to be sure, but hesitate to see remade. Been there, seen that.
Nonetheless, I succumbed to peer pressure and paid $6.50 to see Warrior. 2.5 hours and a box of tissues later, I was very glad I did. (No, I did not bring a tissue box. Yes, you may shed some tears; that includes you tough guys).
Warrior centers around Tommy Conlon, an ex marine fighting demons from his past that he’s trying to forget. Estranged from his father (a long time alcoholic) and his brother (who stayed with his dad when his parents divorced), he is hard hearted and bitter about years of loss. His brother Brendan has a family of his own, and his share of trials to deal with. Also estranged from his father, Brendan has to rethink forgiveness, too. The brothers cross paths again as they begin training for the fight of their lives.
There is no formal presentation of the gospel in Warrior, and Jesus is only mentioned out of anger, sarcasm and doubt. It’s true, the film is mostly about gritty conflict and resentment. You see the inner struggle of a son estranged from his father and his brother, a sufferer of chaos, confusion, and divorce – and a sinner. The story is powerful because the story is human.
We all suffer, and we all sin. We are estranged from our heavenly Father, and thus estranged from one another. Our tendency to anger and judgment and sin sometimes leads to fighting, and sometimes to death. In fact, sin always leads to death.
But the gospel is in the film. It’s in the fighting and the crying, it’s in the “I love you” that ends in the ring. And it’s that kind of love, a love that is willing to bear a cross – or a brother – and lay aside the brokenness of the past- that’s the love we all need. This is the deepest longing of the human heart – to be loved and forgiven, to be free from the wreckage of the past. And it’s met in Jesus.
Go see Warrior, or catch it on dvd if it’s left theaters. Be encouraged in the fight we all face – the battle to forgive and be forgiven. And remember the Warrior Jesus. He didn’t tap out but took the cross of our sin and shame to save humanity from sin and death.