The other day, I was in Pastor Jeff’s office talking to him and Craig Choun about launching a new Financial Peace small group in the fall. Craig has a passion for Biblical finances and is looking to share that love with others. If you are interested in the group, give me a call or stay tuned during our fall small group season.
During our discussion, Craig mentioned how important his existing small group is to him and how they recently saw the new movie Top Gun: Maverick together as a group. What a great idea for small groups—go see a movie together! Or maybe you are a movie buff who would be interested in leading a “movie night” small group where you could see movies with others and talk about what you saw afterwards?
My family went to the movie shortly thereafter. We walked out excitedly talking about our favorite parts and characters in the movie. I could not shake the prominent Biblical themes I saw in the movie talking about them in the car ride home and thinking of them more in the days that followed. The story of God that I hold like a treasure often bears out in pop culture and movie stories even when they aren’t intentionally faith based. This movie was no exception. Here are a few of the themes I saw that align with the Kingdom of God.
A Rebel with a Cause
Maverick, played by Tom Cruise, is a rebel. A risk-taking pilot. A fast motorcycle. Aviator sunglasses. The steely look in his eyes when the shades come off. The need for speed and penchant for breaking the rules. Come on! He makes rebellion look cool even as a middle-aged dude in the sequel. Yet when he breaks the rules, it is usually with a worthy cause in mind. He has a purpose and often has that cause right. Not always, but often. He refuses to be bogged down in the military minutia and nit-picky rules when the big picture is at stake. When America’s national security is threatened. Or if someone is in need. When the mission must be successful. He’s a rebel with a cause. Don’t you just love that about him?
In a small way, Maverick reminds me of the ultimate rebel with a cause. The Outlaw above all outlaws—Jesus Christ. Many readers will be shocked by that statement.
Jesus refused to bow to the religious man-made rules of his day when they conflicted with the heart of God. When the rules were in opposition to his mission on earth and kept people in bondage, he broke them all without sinning once. Healing people on the Sabbath when no one was supposed to work. Or how about the rebel Jesus hanging out with the deplorable of his day and women of the night? One time allowing a prostitute to clean, kiss, and then massage expensive perfume onto his bare feet while telling the self-righteous religious leader who invited Jesus over before she rudely interrupted that she was a better host then him (Luke 7:36-50). On another occasion, sitting down to handcraft a whip to then use to drive the religious out of their own church. It was infuriating for the leaders. How could someone who claimed to be righteous God himself treat them this way all while befriending sinners? He broke the toxic religious rules of his day all while keeping his father’s laws perfectly. The nerve of the guy.
He was a rebel. THE Top Gun. With the ultimate cause. What was that cause? He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free (Luke 4:18, NKJV). That includes you. He came to heal your deep wounds and set you free from your bondage. The wounds in your life often come from close family or friends. The bondage could look like self-destructive behavior, self-centeredness, religious rule-keeping, or all of the above. All of the above for me at one point or another in my life. The bondage could also be despising church or dutifully going to church with a heart far from God. If you are friends with Jesus already, you are experiencing some of that healing and freedom now. Someday soon, it will be complete.
Jesus performed his ultimate cause flawlessly all while walking this earth as the coolest guy in any room he was in. Do you view Jesus this way? As cool or cooler than Maverick? Just about everyone around him except for the self-righteous sure did.
He was attractive to others no matter their past. Sometimes because of their past. They loved him, following him everywhere. So much so, that sometimes he had to escape to get some alone time. I imagine if he had a motorcycle like Maverick, he would have used it to get “out of dodge” quickly on occasion to get some holy solitude. The cowardly government and jealous religious powers ended up killing him in part for his popularity among the people.
He died a brutal death on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day so that anyone that believes in him will live with him forever. That is pretty cool if you ask me. A life that starts now and lasts forever with the coolest outlaw to ever walk—or fly—this earth! A movie, a story, that never ends. If you’ve viewed Jesus as a pressed white linen, sandal-wearing-softy—as he is often portrayed on many a stained-glass—I wonder if you need to give this rebel with a cause another try? Most of us will never meet Tom Cruise or a Maverick in our lives. However, the invitation to meet and be close friends with the ultimate Maverick, Jesus, is open to everyone by faith. Open the cockpit of your heart to him. It is a dangerous yet thrilling mission!
Good vs. Evil
Another prominent theme in Top Gun and its sequel was the age old good versus evil. It is a theme that likely runs in some of the best movies you’ve seen. If you were to name your top ten favorite movies, my guess is that half or more of them would have a theme where good triumphs over evil. Or where love wins in the end. Why do we connect and love these movies so much? It is because that is the story of us. The story of eternity, which is written on our hearts, believer or not. It’s also the story of the Bible. It can be hard to believe at times with all the evil we see around us—school shootings, war, violence, anger and division—that good will eventually win in the end. But it will. Think back to your favorite movies. Remember all the tension, strife, and evil before good conquered? In God’s economy, as partially reflected in the Top Gun movies, good triumphs over evil in the end. All the bitter strife beforehand will undoubtedly make it taste sweeter. I’m looking forward to that day!
Redemption and Healing
One of the most heart-warming themes in the movie is a story of redemption and healing involving Maverick. Those who have seen the first Top Gun movie (is there any red-blooded American who hasn’t?) will remember the tragic accident and story surrounding the flying partners Maverick and Goose. They run into some danger during a flight that necessitates an ejection from their fighter jet. During the ejection, Goose hits his head and dies from his injuries. It is heartbreaking for Maverick and, as we learn in the sequel, terribly haunting for him. Not surprisingly, he can’t let the death go all these years later. He blames himself for the accidental death.
In the sequel, Maverick finds himself the teacher of Top Gun school with Goose’s son, Rooster, as a student in his class. It is a tense relationship as Maverick unknowingly strives for redemption and Rooster bears his father’s loss with Maverick like a chip on his shoulder. In one scene, Rooster tells Maverick “My Dad believed in you. I’m not going to make the same mistake.” Ouch. Talk about rubbing jet fuel in Maverick’s wound. For those who haven’t seen the newest movie, I won’t ruin it for you here. Suffice it to say that the relationship between Maverick and Rooster has some turbulence before some healing lands on their hearts.
The redemption we see in this movie is another major theme of Holy scripture. In the end of this current age, when the Kingdom of God finally comes in totality, all followers of Christ will experience complete redemption and healing. That strained relationship with a neighbor, friend, or family member—completely redeemed. The bitterness, fear, and anger you often feel, sometimes out of nowhere—gone. Your mental, physical, and spiritual deficiencies—eradicated. Jesus’ wingmen will be saved from the very presence of sin in themselves and those around them.
In my opinion, the Top Gun sequel was better than the first movie. And if our life now is our first movie, the sequel will begin when followers of Christ pass from this life into the next. Right into the end of times when he establishes his forever kingdom right here on earth in the renewal of all things. For lovers of God, the sequel will be way better than our current movie. We will be wingmen for Jesus—the Top Gun. Good will conquer evil, once and for all. With redemption and healing safely landing on this aircraft carrier we call earth.
Wingman in training,
Director of Small Groups