Movie Clip Discussions
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Adjustment Bureau, The
God has given us the gift of free will – the right to choose whatever we want. However, if we choose evil, we forfeit God’s blessings. The only way to receive God’s blessings is to choose good.
Whatever Happened to Free Will?
The Adjustment Bureau
is The Matrix
minus Keanu Reeves. The movie addresses the idea of fate – do we control our own destinies…or does something/someone else control it for us? In this film, an ambitious politician named David Norris (Matt Damon) meets a ballet dancer named Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) and they instantly fall in love. Just one problem: they were never supposed to meet.
Thus, “the Chairman,” a powerful person who seems to control the world, sends agents from “the adjustment bureau” to adjust reality so that Norris and Elise never meet so they’ll be separated forever. The movie centers on Norris’ struggle against the incredibly powerful agents as he tries to ensure his future with Elise.
Introducing the Clip:
The Adjustment Bureau isn’t your typical movie where the good guy meets girl, defeats the bad guy, and lives happily ever after. In this movie, David Norris (played by Matt Damon) has met a girl on a New York bus “by chance.” However, little did he know that there were mysterious and powerful agents from “the adjustment bureau” who were working very hard to keep them from meeting that particular morning. In the scene we’re about to watch, the unseen “chairman,” who seems to control the entire world, has sent in his best agent named Thompson to speak with Norris about his fate. In this clip, Norris talks with Thompson about free will. He seems to think humans have it…but the old agent tells him otherwise. Let’s take a look.
Show the Clip:
NOTE TO OUR USERS: As always, our MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS are truly free. We provide you with small group questions, scripture and even the words to say. As for the clips themselves, we always try to find free clips for you, but don't always succeed. This particular clip is available for download from Wingclips for a $10 fee. Wingclips.com has literally hundreds of free clips on their website, but this isn't one of them. Your other option with this clip is to rent the film and cue it up to the scene mentioned above.
When I heard Thompson say, “You don’t have free will, you only have the appearance of free will,” it was like a punch in the gut. I didn’t like what he said because the Bible seems to teach that humans DO have free will – the right to choose for ourselves. But then, Thompson gives a laundry list of reasons why we DON’T have free will, mainly that we choose to hurt others and even ourselves! So, do we have free will or not? This is a huge question, and how we answer it reveals what we believe about God. Let’s spend some quality time talking about this issue.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and the most important decision we made today.
- ASK A FEW: Go back to that decision you just mentioned. Do you think you made that on your own…or did some force actually make it for you? In other words, do you believe you have free will or not? Why?
- ASK A FEW: If we have free will, where did it come from? If we don’t have free will, then what do you think really controls us? (Leaders – At this point, you’ll have to share that the Bible makes it pretty clear that humans have free will. If they don’t buy it, tell them to hang with you for just a few more minutes and you’ll show them. But, let them answer this question as they see fit, for now.)
- ASK A FEW: Thompson lists several blemishes on humanity’s record: World War 1, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. Do you think humans have done a good job with free will, or not? Why?
- ASK A FEW: In broad terms, what can happen when we use free will to intentionally do wrong? (Leaders – For instance, if we choose to be greedy, others go without. If we choose to hit someone, that person experiences pain. If we choose to lie, someone will base his or her life on a lie. Etc.)
- ASK A FEW: Do you think there are any benefits to using our free will for good? Why or why not?
Read the following passage:
NOTE: As students are turning to this passage, tell them its context. Just before God’s people crossed the Jordan River to take possession of the land God promised them, God told Moses to remind them of His commands to them. For 40 years, this group of people had been homeless, wandering through the desert until they were finally willing to live God’s way. In fact, all these people’s parents had died in the desert because they sinned against God. Now, with new life ahead of them, God told Moses to remind them of His expectation – and promise – to them.
ASK SOMONE: What does Moses say God has set before us?
ASK SOMEONE: What does Moses say will happen if we choose to obey God?
ASK SOMEONE: What does Moses say will happen if we turn away from God and disobey Him?
ASK A FEW: Moses tells the people, “I command you today to love the LORD your God….” But do we really have to do that?
ASK A FEW: According to this passage, God has given us the choice to obey Him or disobey Him. Regardless of what Agent Thompson said, this passage teaches us that humans actually do have free will. What would it say about God if He didn’t give us free will? (Leaders – If God didn’t give us free will, then we would simply be robots that carry out His commands. We would never get the chance to “obey” Him because we wouldn’t have the choice to.)
ASK A FEW: Would it be better if God took away our free will and made us love Him and do good? Why or why not?
ASK A FEW: How do you use the free will God has given you?
ASK A FEW: We all know historical figures who used their free will for evil: Hitler, Stalin, Osama bin Laden, etc. Can you give an example of someone you know who uses their free will for good?
ASK A FEW: Why do you think God wants us to “choose life” (use our free will for good) so badly?
AROUND THE CIRCLE: How will you do that this week?
Deuteronomy 30:11-20 (NIV)
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Tonight we explored the difficult idea of free will. To be honest, it can make your head hurt a little bit. Do we, or do we not, really get to decide if we’ll live our lives for God? That’s an important question for us to answer.
Hopefully, what you clearly saw from Scripture is that we DO get to decide. We know that because God told us point blank to choose life instead of death. He told us to choose prosperity instead of destruction. Obviously, we can choose to destroy ourselves and others – just a quick look back over history proves that.
However, if we want to be blessed, if we want life, if we want to please God, then we must choose to do good. We must use our free will to honor God. There is no other way. We can’t choose evil and expect God to bless us.
All of us make thousands of decisions each day. What will I wear? What will I have for lunch at school? Where will I sit at lunch? Will I walk home from school or will I get a ride from a friend? Most of those choices are usually unimportant.
But then, we also have to decide if we will keep our relationship with our boyfriend or girlfriend pure. We have to choose whether or not to cheat on an upcoming exam. We have to decide if we’re going to spread gossip on Facebook about a friend. None of those decisions are small of unimportant.
But in ALL of those choices, we have free will.
I’m gonna pass out some paper and pens. I want you to write down some upcoming decisions you have. That might be “How am I going to respond to my parents’ rules about such and such?” or “What am I going to do this weekend?” or even “What will I say to my friend about a habit he or she has?” I want you to write down 3 big questions you’ve got. Then, I want you to write out your answer to those questions. Yes, I want you to literally write out the answer, on paper. I promise no one will see this but you. Writing it out just increases our odds of actually doing it.
After we do that, I’m going to give us a few minutes to pray about our planned decisions and ask God for help.
After all is done, close in prayer.
Written by David R Smith
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