Thursday, April 25, 2013
Being a big fan of movies of the 40’s (Smitty and I consider that time the golden era of film making , there is a genre of motion picture in particular that stands alone during those years of war and recovery: Film Noir.
The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo…if you haven’t seen them all, you must. But there is one that I watch more than any other, one that always sets my heart a beatin’, and one that has a title that today sent an earthquake of revelation through my bones.
Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and the inimitable Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity is my most beloved of the film noir.
For a trip through the corruption of a soul, down the alleyways of temptation and guilt, this dark masterpiece is the train you want to ride.
A brief, non-spoiler synopsis: Walter Neff (MacMurray) is an up and coming insurance salesman. In an effort to sell an accident insurance policy to a client, he instead is smitten by the man’s calculating wife (Stanwyck), who wears tight sweaters and doesn't like her husband much. As often happens with bad decisions, one leads to another, and Neff finds himself in a plot to deceive the husband into signing on for an accident insurance policy with a clause for “double indemnity”. What that means is the beneficiary on the policy would receive double the payout on the death benefit under certain conditions. For example, if the policy holder were to die by falling off a train, well, what are the odds of that? So the insurance company sweetens the pot by offering a benefit that they will rarely, if ever, have to pay out. From here on out you’re on your own. Rent the movie, directed by the great Billy Wilder. Nuf said.
This blog really isn't about the movie. (I know, you’re shocked!) But the title of the movie made its way into my consciousness this morning and nearly blew my head off. I was thanking God, and out of my mouth came the words “thank you that I stand indemnified before you…”
I talk to God a lot, and when I do, I talk like I would to a friend, but with a whole lot more reverence. Still, I don’t typically use big words with Him. Especially ones I don’t fully understand. But this word kept pressing on me, kept seeming so blasted right, and finally I got practical and pulled out the dictionary.
Indemnify: To protect against damage, loss or injury. To be legally exempted from liability for damages. To make compensation for damage, loss or injury.
This was exactly the word The Great One wanted me to see. Wanted me to understand.
The Fall brought with it every conceivable evil and heartache, and down the ages the damage, loss and injury has been devastating. But for Grace, we humans would have been long gone, long ago. Hatred, envy, strife, lust, avarice, gluttony, apathy, greed, sloth…and the mother of all, pride, have hurt every one of us, both as perpetrators and victims. We've done them, and been done by them. Here’s what the ancient word says of all this:
“The wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23
Kaput. Done. God would owe none of us an explanation. He’s Holy. He’s just. Evil wasn’t in His plan, and since we insist on carrying on He could simply call it a day. But the rest of the verse is as follows:
“…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jesus Christ, lover of our souls, provided indemnity for us. God the Father wanted all of us to know Him, to see His love for us, to find Him. We are His glorious ruin, the heart of His heart. He would satisfy perfect justice with perfect love through the perfect Son. The death of Christ legally exempted us from liability for damages. He not only provided justification from sin, but glorification too. An increasingly transformed life, destined for the joys of heaven. Double indemnity.
This may seem like heavy theology, but it’s really not. Still, don’t let this bollix you up. If it doesn't help you love Jesus more, and love people more, send it straight to the recycle bin. I just thought it was too marvelous to keep quiet about.
Christ plays in a thousand places. Including movie titles. Blessed be His name.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,
PS: Grace has left us with so much beautiful, yes? In the darkness, so many shafts of light. Thinking of the wonders of kindness in the midst of so much ugliness in Massachusetts, where I was born. Boston’s pain makes the loveliness of charity so shine. Love: a compensation for loss, damage and injury.