A Tale as Old as Time

For Fathers’ Day this year, Candice took me to see “Beauty and the Beast” at the Quad City Music Guild—what a fantastic show! And it featured some rather profound theological truths.

The show opens with a young spoiled prince refusing to offer shelter to an ugly old woman solely because of her appearance. She then casts a spell on the spoiled prince and transforms herself into a beautiful woman. Then she gives him a special rose and says the only way he can break the spell is to learn to love someone and have that someone reciprocate that love before the last rose petal falls.

Now I realize an old witch casting a spell on a young prince is not good theology, but hang on.

The focus of the story then turns to Belle, a beautiful young woman with a love for books and an eccentric father. One day her father wanders into the woods where he is attacked by wolves. Fortunately, he finds refuge in the prince’s castle. By this time, however, the curse has engulfed the entire household: the prince has become a Beast and his servants have become objects including a candelabra. a clock, a feather duster, a teapot and teacup and the like. They’ve all lost their true humanity. Nonetheless, the objects are delighted to welcome the eccentric father.

Not so the Beast. He arrives and locks the father away in a dungeon for trespassing. When Belle learns that her father is in danger, she heads into the woods to look for him. She ends up at the castle where she finds her father locked away in the Beast’s dungeon. And this is where the story takes a good turn theologically: Belle makes a deal with the Beast, saying that she will take her father’s place in the dungeon if the Beast would let her father go free.

The Beast agrees.

It’s a picture of substitutionary atonement. So far as the Beast is concerned, Belle is innocent. Yet she was willing to suffer in place of her father who was destined to die in the dungeon of the Beast.

Likewise, we were trapped in a dungeon called Sin where we had no hope of freedom. But that’s when Christ came on the scene and took our place. He died on the cross for us; he became sin for us, though he himself was without sin.

But “Beauty and the Beast” doesn’t end there: Belle begins living where the Beast lives; she lives where true humanity had been lost, just as Christ lived—and lives—among us. Belle is able to look beyond the faults of the Beast and discover his true humanity within. And she begins to love him, freeing him from the curse which had gripped him. And as the Beast experiences love, he recovers his true humanity. In fact, the Beast’s experience of love touches everyone around him: the candelabra, the clock, the feather duster, the teapot and the teacup all recover their true humanity.

That’s the hope we have in Jesus Christ: as we live in his love, we find our true humanity—the humanity that was ours back in the Garden of Eden but which we forfeited because of our rebellion against God. And as we live in the love of Christ, we are freed from the curse of sin. Praise the Lord!

Have you found your true humanity in the love of Christ? I hope so.

 Yours for the mission,

Pastor Dave

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