Alex Kendrick, Kevin Downes, Ken Bevel and Ben Davies play police officers who protect and serve their community in the Sherwood Pictures film Courageous. Understanding their role as police officers is one thing, but their role as fathers and spiritual heads of their families, well that’s something else entirely. It’s not until tragedy strikes that Kendrick’s character Adam Smith, searches the scripture to see what God has to say about fatherhood. He is surprised to learn just how much He has to say.
While sitting down eating with some of the guys, Adam shares his desire to come up to God’s standard of fatherhood. His fellow officer and good friend Shane Fuller (played by Kevin Downes) tries to encourage him saying “You’re a good enough father.” Rightly so, the answer doesn’t sit well at all with Adam, responding, “I don’t want to be a ‘good enough’ father.” His response is so critical during a time when the principles of God are being eschewed for the latest best selling author or guru of the moment.
By today’s standards, parents are considered good when they strive to be their child’s friend, or hand out the kind of discipline that does nothing to deliver their children’s souls from hell. The word of God gives all kinds of mandates opposite to the world’s doctrine. Deuteronomy 32: 46 says, “Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.” God gives his fathers a mighty job to do! They are to teach their children to walk in the way of the Lord by example, not by parenting on the couch with a remote in-hand.
Courageous deals with real issues like fathers winning the hearts of the children not with gifts or giving in to their every whim, but through repentance, integrity, and example of true love, the love of Jesus Christ. Adam realizes he was the first offender in not putting in the work to know his teen-age son. The result is a son who closes the door, sticks in his ear plugs and plays video games all night. As you may imagine there’s some work to be done there.
The character Nathan Hayes, so genuinely played by Fireproof alum, Ken Bevel, has a horse of a different color to contend with — a daughter. At 15-years-old, Jade Hayes, Nathan’s daughter (played by Taylor Vincent) is now considered of dating age by the world’s standards. She at least feels entitled to hang out with a boy, even if it’s not a date. However, the man of God is setting a different standard for his daughter, which creates some friction.
It’s great to see this kind of Godly strong character in a movie because nowadays it’s such a rare depiction. It’s more common to see the stereotypical dad sitting on the chair flipping the remote as his 15-year old daughter walks out of the house with a micro-mini and into a truck with a guy named Spike (No offense to anyone named Spike…it’s a lovely name). His character authenticates fathers, through Christ, to be the gatekeepers they are meant to be. Not the crypt-keeper dads, the gatekeeper! She’s not supposed to be stuck in there until she’s 28. On a personal note, I find Nathan’s character refreshing as an African-American woman because African-American girls need to see these kinds of images more. Note: There is a scene between Nathan and his daughter that is so beautiful and tender that it will likely evoke tears. It is very poignant.
Another touching storyline comes by way of the Martinez family, an immigrant family headed by the hard-working man of God, Javier Martinez (played by stage-actor Robert Amaya). Not one of the police officers, Javier experiences different kinds of struggles as a father and spiritual head of his house. His problems are financial: loss of job, very little food, and not having enough money to make the rent. The refreshing part is you see Javier praying through it all. He doesn’t take flight…he takes a knee. He’s not a plastic character with a stiff-upper lip—you do see his frustrations. There are even times when he questions the Lord to make sense of why things are going the way they are going, yet he instinctively feels like God must be doing something in his faith.
By economic standards, the Martinez family is a mirror for many families in America who are going through economic hardship. Unfortunately the similarities stop there for some because instead of praising God through the situation they blame God. If not rooted and grounded in Christ, fathers in this same predicament will make the wrong choices. How many times have we heard about a father walking out on his family or even committing suicide because he couldn’t provide for the family. Javier’s character shows that a father’s complete dependence on God’s provision brings the blessings of the Lord for his family.
The wives are the supporting leg of the film, but one standout performance comes from the other half of the Martinez parents. Carmen Martinez, who is played by Angelita Nelson, is such a wonderful and true depiction of how a wife’s quiet strength and support can be so instrumental in providing an atmosphere where a husband is empowered to make Godly decisions. Again, this is no super-heroine character, she gets it wrong sometimes, she gets nervous about the lack of money, but she doesn’t harass her husband. She supports his role as head.
Last but not least, single and divorced fathers, you are not left out of the fatherhood equation. Courageous attempts to cover as much ground as it can and even throws a little police action and adventure in between. This is a movie that fathers should see together. Afterwards conduct a honest discussion of how you can hold each other accountable to God’s standard for raising your children. It’s also a great option for a family night discussion.
The word of God says in Malachi 4:6: “And He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” It’s important to God, that the children He has entrusted and lent to their parents are raised and trained in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6). Stephen and Alex Kendrick have written and directed all of the Sherwood Pictures films to date and they continue to do a wonderful job directing the glory and honor to Jesus in Courageous. The film shows that it is courageous to train up children in God’s word because it goes against the grain of this world, but in the end fathers can be assured that the Way in which they are training them up is also the Truth and the Life and no man will come to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). Being courageous has eternal rewards for the family, so be courageous fathers!