“The Debt” is a solid film that not only was insanely intense but it moved me and got to me a bit. The acting was fantastic – the doctor made me loathe him, Sam Worthington (David) made me empathize with him, Jessica Chastain (Rachel) seemed very tortured internally, and I believed Stephan’s hardness both in the past and the present. The twists were superb. I appreciated seeing the ending first and then being drawn into how the pieces come together. The key theme: every sin has consequences but sometimes the lie about the sin is worse.
Beware: lots of spoilers ahead! I cannot get to the heart of this film without digging into all of it.
As is likely with most folks who saw this film, I did not anticipate that the doctor would escape. I thought they would torture and kill him and then lie about that. I thought Stephan would carry out some form of justice and then they would lie about the circumstance. I never had a thought in my head that the doctor would get away and they would be left empty-handed. Once he got away, the choice was obvious: face and accept failure and admit their mistakes, or cling to their reputations and tell a lie. Tell a lie and become heroes, keep their careers and live a sham. They choose what many of us would: to perpetuate the lie. They choose to live a façade and seek the praise of men.
For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:3 ESV)
This hit home with me because I’ve been convicted lately of how much of an idol my own reputation is. After reading “Jesus + Nothiing = Everything” by Tullian Tchividjian, I had to ask myself the question: What do I cling to that I would rather die than have God take away? God likes to answer that question and through an interaction with my wife, I realized that I cling to my reputation. How I am perceived in the eyes of others is vastly important to me. My own name is much more valuable to me than God’s name. This is wrong and will not lead me to freedom and does not lead to joy in Him. But, wow, is it difficult to kill. This is the choice they made and the shame eventually crushes David, breaks Rachel, and Stephan has to sear his conscience for the rest of his life. David knows the path to freedom: speak the truth. But he will come forward without the consent of Rachel and takes another path in killing himself.
The lie is what is at the center of the film but the lie and the escape of the doctor is triggered and set in motion by one seemingly inconsequential act of sin.
One Night Sets it All in Motion
You know what exactly what night that is if you’ve seen it. David and Rachel obviously have affections for each other but David exercises restraint. In one moment, he chooses not to yield to emotion. However, Rachel, initially rejected by David, seeking relief from the pain and intensity of pursuing the war criminal doctor in communist East Berlin, yields to the lust driven seduction of Stephan. That night changes absolutely everything. For one fleeting and regretful night of pleasure, Rachel gets pregnant and truly cuts off the potential for something better with David. This then leads right into the doctor’s hands and gives him an avenue to break David and Rachel with his words, with David eventually giving way to anger and brutalizing the doctor.
David’s anger wasn’t just about the doctor’s killing but, of course, over Rachel. Sometimes, Satan doesn’t need to speak lies to us to bring hurt and further temptation, he merely needs to tell us the truth. We know what happens next. The shards of the plate on the floor. David needing to be calmed by Stephan leaving Rachel vulnerable. The escape. The lie then leads to more shame, more pain, and living a life outside of grace and freedom.
Choose the Cross over Sin, Choose the Cross Again over Shame
We are not very different than David, Rachel, and Stephan. We are faced with the same temptations and daily choices: confess sin or hide it? Run to the cross for relief or trust in the fleeting damaging pleasure of sin?
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21 ESV)
Jesus died and suffered on the cross to bring you to him, to crush the power and temptation of sin, and to bring about your justification. In Christ, we are free! There is now no condemnation! We have nothing to hide! We need not cling to our own façade and reputation – Jesus is our reputation. He is our righteousness. We will fail. We will sin. We will err. He died for it all. Many times, we lie or choose sin simply because of a mistake we made that is not even sin itself! Jesus came to free you from that to walk in the light, to be yourself, to know Him and be satisfied in him. Freedom is not found in the dark but in the light, in Christ.
But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23 ESV)
I’m thankful for the film, “The Debt,” in how it so powerfully illustrates the consequence of sin and the shame and torture that lies lead to. Thank God for sending his son to bring us freedom. May he work in us to give us a deeper understanding of our justification and his deep, deep love for us, that we would not hide but come to him more and more.