So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them: "I'm here to introduce you to this God.... He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him!" ~Acts 17
I grew up watching the Rocky
films, so after Sylvester Stallone received a Golden Globe for his performance
in Creed, I thought it about time to
see that one, too.
Since it had been decades since
I’d seen the first film, I decided to watch Rocky
first. Rocky, which won Best Picture,
was written by Stallone, who also was nominated for his portrayal of the
blue-collar boxer who holds his own in the ring with heavy-weight champion
I must admit, I love Stallone’s portrayal
of the younger Balboa—an uneducated, reluctant loan shark debt collector with a
compassionate, good heart who pursues connection, love and the heavy weight
title with the same quiet persistence. Frankly, I think Rocky is a wonderful story of salvation and the transformational
power of relationships.
These things seem to take a
backseat in most of the sequels—but not in Creed.
That film introduces us to Adonis
Johnson, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. After
Johnson’s mother dies, he is in and out of foster care until Mary Ann Creed,
Apollo’s widow, takes him in and raises him.
Johnson grows up to be a
successful young man, but even as an adult, he struggles with living under the
legend of his father. When he decides to pursue boxing, he seeks out Balboa, who
became good friends with Creed before he died. Johnson sees Balboa as the
closest thing to an uncle he’s got.
But life has taken its toll on
Balboa. His wife Adrian and brother-in-law Paulie have died, and his son has
moved away. Balboa’s retreated from life. He no longer goes to the gym, instead
spending time at his quiet restaurant or sitting on a folding chair by Adrian
and Paulie’s graves.
Balboa reluctantly agrees to
train Johnson, and the two slowly form a deep familial bond. Both men are, as
Balboa puts it at one point, “still caught in the shadows,” but their relationship
transforms them both, helping Johnson work through the losses he suffered as a
child and Balboa embrace life again in spite of its risks and pain. Stallone’s raw
and vulnerable portrayal of Balboa’s struggle through pain and loss deserves the
Globe win and Oscar nod.
But Creed isn’t only a solid addition to Rocky’s story--it also gives
us a wonderful image of the saving and transformational power of loving
I resonate with stories about
makeshift families this because they remind me of the kind of family we are
invited into when we become Jesus’ disciples. Like Mary Anne, Johnson and Rocky, we are a
family of adopted and wounded brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, mothers
and fathers bonded by a sacrificial love that embraces the value and necessity
of each member—old or young—and desires and puts the best interest of the other
And that kind of messy, risky
love helps to transform and move us out of our personal shadows and makes our
lives-together a light to the world around us.