GOOD WILL HUNTING: Making Disciples | FCC 112

Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) takes the risk to love and heal Will Hunting (Matt Damon) and thus make him a disciple. Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and so much more on this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema Podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap
  • 00:03:14 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:28:42 – Christian Themes in GOOD WILL HUNTING
  • 01:09:44 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
  • 01:24:42 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:27:48 – Lightning Round 
  • 01:32:44 – Upcoming

PLEASE NOTE that GOOD WILL HUNTING contains excessive, gratuitous profanity. Michael and I, however, think it can still show us how to make disciples.

Good Will Hunting and How to Make a Disciple

Unfortunately, the Bible does not come with a technical manual that explains how to make a disciple. One would think that if Jesus really wanted us to “go into all the world and make disciples of every nation”, He would have given us more than “go into all the world and make disciples of every nation.” But thanks to four different Gospel accounts and a handful of epistles, we can get a multifaceted glimpse into how He made His own disciples. And with a film like Good Will Hunting, we can see a lot of those practices at work.

Will Hunting is a troubled youth from South Boston with a passion for knowledge and a hyperactive defense mechanism. He spends his days as a custodian at MIT and his nights either at the bar or at home proving complex mathematical theorems. But when he is sentenced to jail for punching a cop, Gerry, a professor from MIT, posts his bail on the condition that he attends therapy twice a week. This deal ultimately lands Will in the company of Sean Maguire, one of Gerry’s old stomping buddies, who has agreed to meet Will at least once.

This image from GOOD WILL HUNTING shows Matt Damon in the Painting scene.

That first meeting proves to be very heartbreaking for Sean. As he tries to connect with Will on anything, Will evades and diverts like always. Will quickly turns the tables on Sean, and when he gets his leverage, he figuratively goes for the throat. This angers Sean so much that he literally goes for Will’s throat. It’s an intense scene all the way through, and it’s a perfectly honest depiction of how difficult making a disciple out of someone so defensive can be. Even still, Sean welcomes the opportunity and tells Gerry to have the kid back at his office the following Thursday.

Over the course of the film, we see two different discipling methods at work. We see Gerry focus on Will’s intelligence, but we see Sean focus on Will’s heart. Gerry wants to break Will into doing what Gerry wants Will to do, but Sean wants to heal Will by letting Will move at his own pace. In the explosive scene Gerry and Sean, these opposing forces come to their respective heads, and Will is standing just outside the door. Sean tries to comfort Will by saying that the argument he just overheard was really just an old argument between him and Gerry and that it had had nothing to do with Will. But Will makes his choice to stay with Sean because he knows how Sean will look after him.

This image from GOOD WILL HUNTING shows Matt Damon and Robin Williams in the Its Not Your Fault scene.

But even when he has let Sean come closer than anyone else – closer than Gerry, Skylar, and even Chuckie – Will is still defensive around him. He still has his guard up. It isn’t until Sean says, “It’s not your fault” – referring to Will’s foster father beating him as a child – that a light starts shining through. And Sean has to keep repeating it because only then does Will start to transform from 20-year-old wall to a newly born disciple, with tears streaming down his face. This is what it looks like when discipling goes right.

The biggest insight that we can glean about making disciples is that it will not be easy and that it will not happen on the first try. It takes patience, and it takes courage. Luckily, both of those are provided by the Holy Spirit when we follow God wherever He goes. You’ve heard it said, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called”, and the case is no less true here. And just as God dwells “in an exalted and holy place,” He also dwells “with the discouraged and humiliated” and calls us to do the same. How else will God’s kingdom come and His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Key Texts

Isaiah 57:15-16 NET

For this is what the high and exalted one says, the one who rules forever, whose name is holy: “I dwell in an exalted and holy place, but also with the discouraged and humiliated, in order to cheer up the humiliated and to encourage the discouraged. For I will not be hostile forever or perpetually angry, for then manʼs spirit would grow faint before me, the life-giving breath I created.

Romans 10:13-15 NLT

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a way to use good stories to soften people's hearts.
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  • Philip Heard

    Hey guys, great episode on Good Will Hunting! I was quite pleased that I enjoyed the film so much when I re-watched it. I saw it first at the theater almost 20 years ago- how crazy is that? But I didn’t have a liking other than for Robin Williams’ performance, which I think is the foundation of the movie. Back then I was still young in my faith, having only been a Christian for a couple of years, and the vulgarity and crassness was too much of an obstacle for me at that time. Now, I was able to deal with it’s shortcomings and find the redeeming aspects of it, so-good call!

    That early scene you discussed between Robin Williams and Stellan Skarsgård illustrates to me how different they looked at the world. When Lambeau said Sean and Will were similar, I think he and Sean both really knew it was not just because they were both from South Boston, but that they were both squandering their great potential. However, Sean was more in tune with God’s point of view- not seeing fame, status, and wealth as the indications of success, but rather seeing success in a noble calling and fulfilling work that enriches the lives of others in a practical and meaningful way.

    Also, the biggest thing that sticks out to me is how Sean’s love overcame Will’s fear. 1 John 4:18 states “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love.”(NET) Will’s fear had crippled his entire life, casting a shadow over every relationship outside his small circle of friends. What healed him in the end was not the fulfillment of his potential, a big job with big pay, or any other worldly consideration. What healed him was love and understanding from a friend who knew how to help him escape the bondage of his past.

    While I also like Dead Poet’s and Good Morning Vietnam(which I need to re-visit), to me, this is the signature performance for Robin Williams, and a fitting tribute to his work in film.

    And as for Stellan Skarsgård, if you want to see more of him, check out River on Netflix. It’s a 6 episode mini-series that has a unique look at a police drama, with Skarsgård anchoring the show with a great acting job.

    Lastly, am I correct in assuming that the version of The Invisible Man you’ll be doing is the 1933 film with Claude Rains?

    Love the show guys! #muhweeladgimli

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