If one thinks about it, this is an amazingly profound realization.
How is it that we agree so readily about the decision for duty, honor, and responsibility over the pursuit of personal happiness? How can this natural moral law rise to elevated precedence over everything else, including our personal goals and wishes?
How can the natural moral law be that important? How can there be values in life worth making sacrifices for, over and above our personal desires?
How can “doing the right thing” command our respect and loyalty to this degree of self-sacrifice?
Why does this theme repeat itself in so many great movies, achieving so much popular acceptance and acclaim, yet be so morally demanding?
No Christians today would in hindsight tell Noah to stop building his ark, or advise Abraham to stay in Haran, or advise Moses to refuse God’s difficult calling to go to Egypt and deliver the Israelites.
No Christians would tell David to forget about the absurd notion of attempting to kill Goliath using only a sling and a stone, or tell Peter to continue mending his nets rather than accept the invitation of Jesus to follow Him, or tell Paul he had better give up his missionary quest and return to the safety of being a Pharisee in Jerusalem…after being nearly stoned to death in Lystra.
Buried deep within our conscience, we know that doing the right thing is more important than doing what we might otherwise want to do, when the circumstances of life require us to make a choice.
This must have the clear bell-ring note of truth that resonates in our innermost being, otherwise the movie Roman Holiday would not have captured our imagination and maintained its longstanding popularity to reach the elevated status of being considered a “classic.”
Within the highly competitive marketplace of ideas filtered through the cultural medium of modern movie-making, the theme of this beautiful story has stood the test of time for a good reason.
There is an important lesson we can take away from this classic movie.
Even the supportive and affirming aspects of common romantic love, which God created, can change people for the better.
Before her one-day love affair in Rome with Joe Bradley…the Gregory Peck character in the movie, the Princess Anne is going through the perfunctory motions of acting like a princess, of doing what everyone around her tells her to do, because that is what is expected of her. But after she discovers, even for a single day, that a handsome and charming man actually loves her for who she is rather than what she is, this supporting validation of her as a person sets her free to become her own person.
Not only does the love, value, and respect coming from the Gregory Peck character in the movie enable Anne to grow instantly into a mature woman capable of independent decision-making, but also enables Anne to make the difficult but elevated moral decision to continue in the responsible role as her country’s princess.
After her Roman Holiday, the Princess Anne will enter into her duties in the service of her family and her country out of her own volition and choosing, albeit at the high cost of a lost romance and a broken heart. This one-day, eye-opening experience will make her a better person and a more committed public servant for all of the right reasons. This one-day transformation came about through the respect and support that comes with being genuinely loved.
Likewise, the one-day romp through the city of Rome with the beautiful princess in the disguise of a commoner, creates in Joe Bradley a growing love and affection for this woman as the day progresses, that in the end produces the elevated nobility of character that sacrifices for her welfare, the sensational front-page reporter’s story of a lifetime.
While standing in the front row of the gallery of reporters at the next day’s press conference, Gregory Peck assures Audrey Hepburn that the scandalous nature of their day out-in-the-town in Rome will forever remain a secret between the two of them. Joe Bradley tells the Princess Anne that her “faith in the relations between people will not be unjustified.” And thus these two people discover together the elevated, self-sacrificing quality of character that their love for each other has created…seemingly out of nowhere.
Anne starts out her Roman Holiday wanting only the excitement of pursuing one day of total freedom to do just whatever she pleases, and Joe Bradley starts out pursuing the personally detached, coldly calculated news reporter’s front page feature article. Both unknowingly start out the day in the natural realm of worldly conventional, self-centered plans and schemes, but through the day’s totally unique shared experiences they end up at the highest character realm of the natural moral law of self-sacrificing love.
So it is with a God-composed journey of faith following Jesus Christ. Spending time with Jesus will change us forever.
Romantic love that contains genuine self-sacrifice motivates Hepburn and Peck, in the movie, to make the right decision and to do the right thing.
But it is the actual activities of the day spent together that creates the bond of love between them to make this possible. This is where the “rubber meets the road” in the story. Without their “Roman Holiday” there is no context for their shared experiences, growing love for each other, and subsequent elevated character growth.
Without their Roman Holiday experience, they both would remain just the same as they were the previous day, hopelessly stuck within their horizontally conventional realities.
Only God can craft the events and circumstances in our lives to create the singularly unique context for developing love for God and right actions consistent with the natural moral law.
Whenever Jesus Christ calls a person into a particular task, mission, or service as part of their journey of faith, the confidence that God places in us is a divine aspect of love that will inspire a response to rise to the occasion.
This supportive validation of us as a person, coming from no less than Almighty God Himself, will raise the bar to a new elevated level of character within us. The value that God places upon us, and the trust He invests in our development, when divine love is in operation, will elevate people into the high character level of the natural moral law contained within a journey of faith, to match the beautiful stories of faith in the Bible.
The acceptance, confidence, and validation that are a part of the love of God that is shown in God’s willingness to interact with us on a personal level, will elevate us to become better people, again seemingly out of nowhere (Mk. 4:26-28).
Whether we consciously know it or not, when we place our trust completely in Jesus Christ through a God-composed journey of faith, we are subscribing wholeheartedly to the natural moral law.
A personalized adventure of faith patterned for us after the lives of faith portrayed in the Bible, is God’s ingenious method of establishing a relationship with us based upon mutual love. This love will capture our voluntary willingness to climb any mountain, cross any sea, and bear any burden in response to the living God who loves us and cares for us.
This explains why Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Ruth, Esther and Mordecai, Jeremiah, Elijah, Daniel, Peter, and Paul stay with God’s program through thick and thin. They recognized God’s confident love for them and responded with fidelity and loyalty to God’s higher ways and plans.
This is the elevated, higher character realm of the natural moral law where God resides.
Princess Anne and Joe Bradley unintentionally fall in love as a result of their shared Roman Holiday experience, combined with their physical attraction and growing affection for each other. This was not a consciously intellectual choice on their part, conferring merit on their creative wisdom to set all of this up in advance. We simply have the God-given, innate capacity for experiencing love that will alter our lives for the better.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
One theme of this book is that God sets up unimaginable life-scripts for us to walk in, individually tailored to His intentions when He originally created each of us.
Love will motivate people to voluntarily choose high moral actions in a truly genuine and fulfilling way. Divine love is the dynamic force that energizes the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible. The “that not of yourselves” part involves picking up our cross, listening in the Spirit, and following Jesus. It is the love of God that actively intervenes in our lives that is the key for individual Christians and the Christian church in the last-days.
This is the part of the Christian experience that is infused with the most unselfish, loving intentions of God toward us, creating the space for God to insert a biblical version “Roman Holiday” of unique situations and circumstances into our lives.
The secondary theme of this wonderful movie Roman Holiday, where the cost of duty and honor is commendably chosen over the short-term gain of personal preference, is something that Christians can anticipate becoming more clearly defined in our journeys of faith as the last–days approach.
Love that produces and exhibits self-sacrifice is one of the basic spiritual realities of the Christian life. It is one of the fundamental aspects of this natural moral law that is a part of the Almighty God that we worship and follow.
Amazingly, this natural moral law even shows up as a main theme in a classic movie produced out of Hollywood in 1953.