Moana. Inside Out. Star Wars. Lord of the Rings. Beauty and the Beast. Field of Dreams. Sleeping Beauty. Rocky. Gladiator. Pretty much all Disney movies. What is it about these movies that we so deeply connect with, resonate with and even cry over?
Want to know my theory? If not…why are you still reading? 🙂
The reason certain movies resonate deeply with us is because there is almost always a core overarching Gospel reality or truth in them.
Oh, I know, you can find many other themes in the movies you love. You can identify certain value’s that may not be part of the Christian faith but another religion or belief system. But some of the most deeply cherished movies have Gospel centered themes that strike a cord in us…because I believe God himself is speaking to us through all of creation, even things man “creates” to draw us to himself.
I will give some examples, but I am sure you can think of a thousand others as well.
This is a good one to start with because I just watched it…twice. This is also a good example, because it certainly has clear themes pulled from myths and other traditions outside of Christianity. However, what is the over-arching theme? A girl who becomes confident of her true identity and calling (kept hidden from her for many years), who ultimately helps restore creation back to it’s beauty before the heart was stolen from it and darkness began to curse the earth. It’s a story of identity, calling and redemption.
Sounds a lot like the Gospel to me! Man has sinned. Hearts were hardened. The ground was cursed. Darkness began to spread. But then Jesus came to restore. He came to save. He came to call us into our true identity that has been hidden from us. He came to transform, to give us our “heart back.” To remind us who we truly are. And one day, the curse will be lifted and a new heaven and new earth will appear.
- Sleeping Beauty
I am going to admit something that you can feel free to make fun of me for…but Sleeping Beauty was my favorite movie growing up! Before you laugh however, I would like to make the case that it’s because the ending is one of the most Gospel-rich of them all!
Aurora is led astray, pricks her finger and thus falls asleep. Her only hope is to be awakened by loves true kiss. Prince Philip goes to rescue her on a white horse. However, he first has to face the evil Maleficent who transforms into a dragon. His shield protects him and the sword defeats the dragon. He awakens the slumbering princess with loves true kiss and all is restored as a sleeping kingdom is also awakened.
Come on! Satan has led us astray. We’ve been pricked by sin. We were dead in our sins. But Jesus came on a rescue mission (and will return on a white horse! Also in the same context He will deal with evil through the “Sword of his mouth” and the Great serpent or dragon will also be seized). But what is it that awakens our slumbering hearts? It’s his love demonstrated for us on the cross! Once again, the curse will be lifted. (Isn’t this often the same kind of theme in many movies? Think Beauty and the Beast. Redemption, restoration, the defeat of evil and triumph of good. These are all Gospel themes!).
- Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit
What was it about Lord of the Rings/the Hobbit that people are drawn too? I would suggest it’s the fact that it contains such a majestic sense of a “grand adventure” in the context of community that our hearts long for. Here again we see Gospel themes of power, pride and greed corrupting, but an unlikely humble hero emerging, along with a company of others (a fellowship) who is brought into a drama and world far bigger than he ever could have imagined.
Now think Mary, a young, poor, unknown virgin girl, being visited by an angel and told she had been chosen to bear the Messiah of the World. Think of Jesus calling an unlikely assortment of characters to follow him into an adventure beyond their wildest dreams. Think of all the powerful kings and queens in Scripture tempted, seduced or struggling with power, pride, greed and lust. Tolkien himself, like C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia) was a Christian. While the Chronicles of Narnia are explicit Gospel allegories, Tolkien was influenced by and worked in Gospel truths that resonate deeply with the human heart. Why? Because God is still calling “unlikely” hobbits into grand adventures! (oh and He wants to do this within a church community and fellowship context!).
- Rogue One
The appeal of Star Wars among people of all kinds of differing beliefs is testimony to it’s universal appeal. However, there is no denying that once again the overarching themes of good verse evil, redemption and restoration (especially between father and son), light verse darkness, mentor and disciple, sacrifice and daring missions are also core Gospel themes.
In Rogue One a group of “rebels” end up sacrificing their lives that the death star might be destroyed and the galaxy saved. They are a rag-tag team of unlikely hero’s like Jesus’ disciples who (all but one) end up losing their lives for the sake of a greater cause: the Gospel of Jesus Christ going to the nations of the world and Satan’s destructive work being destroyed.
- Hacksaw Ridge
This was an extremely inspiration movie, like many “war” movies before it. The uniqueness of this war movie however was the focus on a man who refused to pick up a gun. He was a man of peace bent on serving his country not by taking lives, but as a medic who would save lives and bind up the wounded. Left all alone at the top of Hacksaw Ridge by choice, a place that was brutal and where many soldiers died, he kept going back into the battle risking his own life to save others. It was exhausting and dangerous work, but he kept praying “Lord help me get just one more.” It is a picture of the courage, strength, determination and passion of Christ who came not to take lives but to give his life for others. It is also a message of peace, hope and healing in the midst of death and destruction all around us.
I could go on and on. Movies centered on forgiveness and reconciliation. Movies of second chances. Movies of the underdog achieving the impossible (Rudy & Rocky). Movies even of romance (yes, God is a “romantic” in his love for us! Romance was his idea and gift to us anyway). I dare you to watch movies without finding core Gospel themes in them and recognizing this is why we resonate with them so deeply!
The Gospel is the ultimate story of stories. Jesus is the ultimate hero. And He is calling each of us into a journey, adventure, romance and battle alongside him like no other. But this is a story we don’t merely watch as a spectator, but join in as a real participant and character. The question is, will you head His call to come and follow Him? What role in this story of stories will you play?
Gandalf (or Jesus?): I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.
Bilbo: I should think so-in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them…
Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.
Biblo: You can promise that I’ll come back?
Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. -Revelation 22:1-5