A few years ago, we used the movie Groundhog Day in our youth ministry. We wanted to use a piece of media that would connect with our students through humor and would introduce the concepts of joy, self, and the error of being our own authority.
While not a “Christian” movie in the sense that one might normally think of one, our use of it was in the tradition of Paul in Athens as noted in Acts 17:16-33, specifically Paul’s re-contextualization of the words of Epimenides, Aratus, and Cleanthes in verse 28. These men were Greek philosophers who lived hundreds of years prior to Christ, and Paul not only indicates a knowledge of them and their works, but uses them to fulfill the truth communicated in Romans 1 that all men have an awareness of “God” revealed through creation itself.
We ended up watching a bulk of the movie, each of the points under the “explore” piece were discussed AFTER the scenes were viewed.
CONNECT: Asked and discussed with our students
When you hear the word “authority”, what comes to mind?
Who are people in authority over you?
What is freedom?
How much freedom do you have?
EXPLORE: “Groundhog Day”
Big Question: What are some of the various ways Phil Connors seeks to define “joy” and “freedom”?
Watch: Movie Clip: Phil takes a drive with two guys from the bar (and ends up in jail)
Phil’s First Definition- “Freedom is doing whatever you want”
Ask: How did Phil try to define freedom here?- “Doing whatever he wanted”
Phil realizes that, if there’s no tomorrow,
“We could do whatever we wanted… All your life, it’s clean up your room, pick up your feet, be nice to your little sister, take it like a man. I’m not going to live by their rules any more.”
Rules, according to Phil, are the opposite of freedom: they imply responsibility, accountability, relationships… society. Now, he doesn’t have to worry about anything: there need be no responsibility because there can be no consequences.
It sounds nice…maybe. Phil drives on the railway line, pursued by police. He may be put in a prison cell, but the following morning, he will still wake up in his own bed…again. He seduces Nancy, promising her marriage. After all, he knows he will never have to follow through on his promise. He robs a security truck and buys himself a Mercedes. His TV producer, Rita, unimpressed by his egotism, quotes Sir Walter Scott to him: “The wretch, concentrated all in self.” That describes precisely what Phil becomes.
This definition of freedom eventually fails because no matter how hard Phil tries, he cannot seduce Rita. Despite the freedom to do whatever he wants, he still wakes up, day after day, on Groundhog Day.
Phil’s Second Definition- “Freedom is becoming the best you can be”
This type of freedom is connected to love, Phil stops only thinking of himself and thinks of others.
Ask: Does this type of freedom bring happiness right away? Why? Why not?
Suppose you feel what you are made for is athletics. You want the freedom to excel at athletics. You follow the rules of training and competing. Are you happy? Ninety percent of your involvement in athletics will be sweat, exertion, pain, effort, failure, giving up, trying again… When it comes down to it, probably only ten percent of what you do could be described as “happiness” though probably that is too weak a word for what a successful athlete feels.
Ask: What are the problems with this definition?- Are we always the best judge of the the best that we can be? Why? Why not? Is there a judge?
Despite all of Phil’s good works, he is still waking up, day after day, on Groundhog Day.
Watch: Movie Clip: Phil is purchased by Rita with all that she has.
The Ultimate Definition- “Freedom is belonging to someone who loves you”
Ask: What kind of freedom is this? Why did Phil wake up the next day NOT on Groundhog Day?
Why did God begin this section with “I am the LORD your God…”?
Why did it matter that God was their deliverer?
What did that have to do with the rest of the chapter?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
What can we learn about freedom from these verses?
How are you using the freedom that God has given you?
-To do what you want?
-To become “the best you can be”?
-To truly live as His?
What would it look like for God to be your authority?
If God were your authority, what would your relationships look like?
If God were your authority, how would you spend your time?
What are you going to do with your freedom to either accept, or reject, God?