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What Is the Moral of the Classic Film Casablanca?

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In the late 1930s, Richard Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) falls in love with a beautiful and wonderful woman, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman ). Ilsa, whose husband had died in a concentration camp, opens her heart to Richard. But their mutual love cannot blossom in Paris where they reside. The Nazis are only a day away from marching into the city of love.

Since both must flee France, they plan to meet the next day at the railroad station. When the morrow comes, Richard waits for Ilsa at the train. But she never arrives. Instead, he receives a handwritten note from her telling him that she loves him but they must never see each other again.

With no choice but to flee, Richard departs—emotionally destroyed.

The story resumes, sometime later, with Richard in Casablanca, Morocco. "Rick" owns and operates the prestigious Rick's Café. Though he is well respected in his new community, life means little to him without the woman of his affection. However, he possesses only a memory of his lost love.

But as fate would have it, one day Ilsa enters the cafe with her husband, a hero of the French resistance movement.

Overwhelmed by seeing each other, Rick and Ilsa meet in secret. She reveals to him the reason for her note at the train station. She tells Rick that upon returning to her apartment the day before they were to flee France, she learned that her husband was not dead but alive. She made the decision to end the relationship with Richard.

However, the flame that burned in Paris lived on. Ilsa could not deny that she still loved Rick with all her heart.

Neither, though, could Ilsa voice any disrespect toward her husband. Her husband possessed incredible goodwill, moral conviction, strong leadership, and unique courage. Her husband had set his eyes on resisting the Nazis, and many followed him to Casablanca. Both Rick and Ilsa admire this man.

As Rick and Ilsa try to sort out their feelings and situation, Ilsa cannot think straight. She requests Richard to think for both of them.

So Richard hatches a plan. He will help Ilsa's husband flee Casablanca where the Nazis have followed him and threaten to kill him. Because they want him and not Ilsa, this plan seems plausible. For the time Ilsa will remain behind at Casablanca with Rick. During this time, they can pursue their love for each other. Rick launches the plan, arranging for an aircraft to fly out of Casablanca. But just before her husband boards the plane, shockingly Rick tells Ilsa she must go with her husband. If she does not go, she will regret it. "Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."

At that moment, both know the decision he makes for the two of them rings true.

She flies off with her husband, and Rick and Ilsa never act on their love for each other.

When Casablanca first appeared on the screen, it had an unspectacular initial response; but as the years have passed, the film has become known as one of the greatest of all time.

Why? Audiences identify with this dilemma.

The movie captures the reality that a person can love someone who is not his or her spouse. The Old Testament refers to these people as "lovers." This is an indirect acknowledgment that love may exist, but the love lands outside of God's will.

As a man of honor, Rick did the most loving thing. The most loving thing required that Ilsa remain with her husband.

As a woman of love, Ilsa did the most honorable thing. The most honorable thing required that she remain with her husband.

Many in the audiences, like Rick and Ilsa, have also stood their grounds against forbidden love. Though the love was real, acting on it would not have been right.

However, some folks give into this love. They exclaim, "Something that feels so right cannot be wrong!" But the Lord Jesus calls this adultery or fornication. He would say, “You will regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life, and definitely throughout eternity."

Love can ignite between two people, and the richness of that love can be very real. Though it is not superficial or counterfeit, the currency of this love must not be claimed for oneself. It must not go into circulation.

Friend, send the lover away. Fly away.

Make the decision for the two of you.

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. Have you seen Casablanca? If so, did you feel Rick and Ilsa were doing the loving and honorable thing, or were you disappointed they didn’t end up together?
  2. Do you agree that someone can fall in love with someone who is not their spouse? Why or why not?
  3. The Bible refers to “lovers” several times in its pages, but never in a positive light. Why would God not honor this relationship between two “lovers”?
  4. Have you known of a person or persons who acted on their forbidden love? Did it end well for everyone involved? Did it end well for anyone involved?
  5. What can you do to better protect yourself from even beginning to have feelings of romantic love toward someone who is not your spouse?