Let’s face it… for fans of The Chosen, Jonathan Roumie sold The Jesus Revolution. Roumie’s portrayal of Jesus in The Chosen has earned him a following, a ministry, and has contributed to a national conversation about Jesus, leading many to seek the truth about Jesus, and many have professed faith in Christ as a result.
So, it comes with a bit of irony that in The Jesus Revolution, Roumie portrays a young Lonnie Frisbee, whose emotionally compassionate outreach and charismatic preaching sparked The Jesus Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, thus sparking a national conversation about Jesus which led to many salvations.
Neither man (Roumie or Frisbee) is without controversy, as is neither character portrayed. Jesus was controversial in His day, and remains so to this day. And with a resurgence of post-morten fame on the heels of Jesus Revolution, Frisbee finds himself in the middle of controversy as well.
At the center of Frisbee’s controversy are his theatrical antics, and his struggles with homosexuality. Critics point to the former to discredit his ministry, and they point out the latter to discredit Christianity in general.
To their credit, the filmmakers of The Jesus Revolution were open about the character flaws of each of the leaders of the movement. Smith was a bit opportunistic and judgmental, and struggled with seeing the church blossom under someone else’s leadership. Laurie struggled with drugs early on and struggled with faith toward the end of the movie.
Frisbee demanded the spotlight, neglected his wife, and stormed out in a hissy fit when the spotlight was taken away. Yes, his struggles with homosexuality were omitted from the movie, but were not an issue during the time portrayed in the movie.
Frisbee was raped as a child, and as many who endure that atrocity do, experimented with homosexuality during his adolescence and early adulthood. Frisbee reported coming out of that lifestyle when he came to know Jesus, but relapsed in the 1980s. Frisbee confessed that his behaviors were sin, and were as sinful (but no more than) other sins.
When confronted, Frisbee confessed. He prayed for forgiveness. He tried to help others find forgiveness. He did not cling to the lifestyle, and did not advocate that others live the lifestyle.
It would be sinful and unproductive to try to determine Frisbee’s salvation status, or whether his faith was real, and his ministry motivated by faith and a genuine heart for the Lord. We leave the judging of the living and the dead to God.
However, a quick internet search into Frisbee’s life reveals a struggle with sin which is not unlike the struggle with pornography, addiction, anger, gluttony (I confess that!), hate, covetousness or dishonesty.
As Christians, we often find ourselves easily ensnared in sin that rapidly gets out of hand and gruesome pretty quickly. Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking that our sin isn’t that big of a deal, but it is.
And we can usually find a worse sinner to point out to make ourselves feel better about our sin. And in this case, that worse sinner is Frisbee.
However, the political fireball surrounding his sin neither discredits the Bible, the Gospel, nor the film, because all three uphold the fact that God works through the broken, and through weakness we are made strong.
Frisbee struggled with homosexuality, but Abraham committed adultery, Jacob was a crook, Judah hired a prostitute, King David committed adultery and murder, and Solomon dabbled in idolatry. Yet, Scripture holds those men up as patriarchs of the faith, and some even wrote scripture.
Scripture does not affirm their behavior, but God used them in spite of their brokenness, and God uses us in spite of our brokenness.
Why would God do that? He does that because the premise of the Gospel is that the broken can be healed, the sinner can be cleansed, and the condemned can be redeemed. Further, this all happens not because of how great the person is, but because of how graceful and powerful God is.
And that’s the power of the Gospel, that the death and condemnation of our sins was placed on Christ when He hung on that cross, and when He died, that death and condemnation were sent to Hell instead of us.
And because of that redemption, because Jesus took it all on our behalf, we can go free. We can place our faith in Him and make ourselves available for God to use to do big things… or maybe small and simple things. Either way, it’s a blessing.
So I’m not offended that one of my favorite actors portrayed a man who struggled in homosexuality, and I’m not discouraged that such a man was a key figure in a national revival, because I have routinely seen God use broken people, including myself, to lead others to redemption and healing.
God uses the broken to advance the Gospel, and He is glorified in it. Or as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3, “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?”
So let’s review. God is good. Redemption is real. The Gospel saves. The Jesus Revolution is a good movie. And God has used the broken to spark a national conversation about Jesus. Let’s have that conversation, and point people to the redemption in Christ Jesus that is found at the cross, and not let ourselves be distracted by one man’s sin from 40 years ago.