The bestselling book Redeeming Love has been adapted into a film and Francine Rivers, the creator of the popular romance novel, said she hopes it will show the world what real love looks like.
Redeeming Love has remained on multiple fiction bestseller lists for over 15 years, sold over 3 million copies, and has been published in more than 30 languages. Bringing her classic book to life on the big screen has been a “long journey!” Rivers told The Christian Post in a recent interview. Despite several offers to adapt Redeeming Love into a movie, the author felt the scripts were “never reflective of the primary message.”
“They didn’t capture Michael’s Christlike character, and I couldn’t give approval,” she said of the main character in her book, who is supposed to serve as an example of the pursuing love that God shows to His people. “That’s always been the most important thing for me: to make sure the movie shows what God’s love is like — passionate, patient, persistent — ever-lasting.”
Not finding any script to be quite right, Rivers decided to start reading books on scriptwriting and write her own sample script depicting what she wanted to see on screen.
The film is now being directed by DJ Caruso and produced by Roma Downey (‘The Bible”) and Cindy Bond (“I Can Only Imagine”).
“I didn’t expect them to want my effort, but they did,” Rivers said of her script. “When D.J. Caruso came onboard as director, he restructured the script and worked with me to strengthen scenes. The collaboration is what makes the film different from, but true to the book.”
The novel is based on the Old Testament book Hosea and is filled with scripture verses from beginning to end. Like the novel, the film is set in the backdrop of the California Gold Rush of 1850. Although referenced throughout the movie, the religious elements are not seen as much in the cinematic feature.
“I want people to see that no matter what’s been done to us or the sins we commit, God loves us and offers us new life through Jesus," Rivers told CP, reflecting on what she wants viewers to learn from the film.
"Michael’s obedience to God and patient courtship of his wife softens her heart. She falls in love with him, but it’s really God who will free her. We all have to make a choice. Surrendering to Jesus is the one decision that changes us from the inside out and sets us free to love as God loves us. I wanted viewers to see the difference between what the world says love is and what real love looks like. Hopefully, they will want to experience that kind of love for themselves, available only through Jesus Christ,” The New York Times bestselling author added.
“The story centers on Angel (Abigail Cowen of 'I Still Believe') who was sold into prostitution as a child. She has survived through hatred and self-loathing until she meets Michael Hosea (Tom Lewis of 'Gentlemen Jack') and discovers there is no brokenness that love can’t heal. The story reflects the redemptive power of unconditional and sacrificial love with characters and circumstances relevant to the contemporary world,” the film synopsis reads.
In the Hollywood telling of the romance novel, both of the main characters tap into prayer at different points in the film.
“Prayer is communication with God," Rivers continued. "The inner thoughts of the two characters can’t fully be seen on screen, but are clear in the book. Angel hears and believes Satan’s lies. Michael listens to God. He knows he is in the middle of a spiritual battle over Angel. Watching his obedience as he lives a life of faith is what begins to change Angel from the inside out.
"But the ultimate step to freedom involves her making a choice. When she cries out to God in prayer, He hears and answers, and her life is changed forever. The same is true for all of us. Every human being on the planet has a choice to make. Choosing to believe Jesus Christ brings freedom and a right and everlasting love relationship with our Creator.”
Although not overly preachy, the movie made an impact on some people on set.
“I remember one young woman on the crew who said she had never been religious or a believer, but seeing the story come to life made her want to believe,” Rivers told CP. “That’s what I’m hoping will happen. The story of Michael and Angel will create a hunger and thirst for God’s love. It’s available to all.
“Also, one of the stars said the set had a very different (peaceful, communal) feel from all others he’d been on. So many involved in the film had one goal: to glorify God,” she added.
The harrowing story exposes the evil of human trafficking and child exploitation. When Rivers wrote the novel over 30 years ago, she had no idea people worldwide were still being bought, sold and trafficked into all forms of slavery.
“The story is based on the book of Hosea in the Bible, a book that had a tremendous impact on my own faith journey,” she continued. “It was letters from readers who shared their devastating stories of abuse and shame and how Redeeming Love gave them hope that opened my eyes to God’s love for them. It’s important to see the harsh reality of life. We can’t stop trafficking unless we acknowledge it is happening. Then we can stand with survivors and fight to stop it.”
An “unexpected” blessing that has come out of adapting Redeeming Love into a movie is the formation of the Redeeming Love Sanctuary Foundation, headed by Holly Caruso, wife of D.J. Caruso.
“She and I talked at length, and I shared with her how Rick and I have always seen Redeeming Love as my first fruits as a Christian writer. It has always belonged to God, including the proceeds (minus taxes) which have gone to charity work. Whatever Rick and I make from the movie will go into this foundation,” Rivers explained. “Our mission is to aid in preventing sex trafficking and abuse by funding survivor support services, education and recovery programs in the United States and abroad.”
After all the book’s success, Rivers shared what she is most thankful to God for doing.
“I am most thankful for how God can use anything, even a work of fiction, to reach into the hearts of His beloved children,” River testified.
“When someone is deeply touched by the story of Michael and Angel, it’s God holding out His arms to that person. He loves us so much. All He wants is for us to love Him back,” she added.
Rivers ended the interview by saying that her big dream for the film is that people would leave the theaters “understanding how long-suffering, passionate and wonderful God’s love is for each of us.”
“Redeeming Love” hits theaters on Jan 21.
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic