My daughter and I went to see Beauty and the Beast yesterday.
It was everything I hoped it would be!
This morning on the way to church I started singing a song from the movie…”There’s something sweet, and almost kind, but he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined. And now he’s dear, and so unsure…I wonder why I didn’t see it there before?”
My nine year old daughter, London, sat silent beside me for a few seconds and then she said, “I just realized that almost all Disney movies have a lesson in them.”
I said, “Oh, yeah? What’s the lesson in this movie?”
London said, “You know, just not to judge people by what you only see on the outside. Sometimes people are different than what they look like, but you don’t know it if you’re scared of them.”
A broad smile spread across my face and I felt immensely proud of her for picking up on that. I told her that was correct, and that is why Jesus calls us to love everybody, and to always be a friend to people.
Beauty and the Beast is such a powerful story to me in so many ways.
The opening scene is the narrator telling the story that sets the stage and ends with her saying this…
“After all, who could ever learn to love a beast?”
What makes someone a beast?
Well, that thought was fresh on my mind when I watched the movie because my church had a youth retreat this weekend and the theme was all about living a resurrected life. The word “resurrected” means “restored to life, revived, regenerated”. They started the weekend by explaining to the kids what sin is, what it means, and what it does. The Pastor told them that the word “sin” is an archery term, and that it means missing the mark, or not hitting the goal. He said that ANYTHING besides Christ-likeness is missing the mark, and is therefore sin. Anything. Not just not what we deem as the really bad things. Anything.
I couldn’t help but think that when we sin, we become a beast. A beast could be described as a depraved person, or a person who misses the mark.
After I watched the movie, a friend asked me if it was family-friendly still with that “stuff” in it. She was, of course, referring to the hint of homsexuality in the movie. She wanted to know if it was safe for children. That thought particularly struck me as I thought about all the other many things in the movie that I might also consider not “family-friendly”, or, more to her point, not “christian-belief-friendly” for children.
This movie (and the cartoon version) is full of things we deem as sinful: sorcery, witchcraft, drinking, a bar scene with immodest women, beastiality, sexual innuendo, and brutal violence. All of those things miss the mark. Right? They go against what most Christian beliefs stand on. However, I feel like we, as Christians, justify why a lot of those things are okay for us, or children, to watch. We blur the gray line and lump those things in as not too bad, because, after all, almost every single kids cartoon/show has those things in them, and so we have become accepting of those things. They are not shocking to us and so we consider them acceptable. But this other thing? This new thing they added, well, that’s just too much. So my opinion is this: if I should not watch, or let my kids watch, a movie that has a sin in it, then that should apply to every sin, right? Why do we get to choose what misses the mark and what doesn’t? Either it’s a sin, or it’s not.
Beauty and the Beast starts off from the very beginning telling the story of someone who missed the mark in his character. The Prince was haughty and proud and not compassionate to the poor and needy. He scoffed at a gift that he felt was beneath his greatness. He was born a Prince, but his choices turned him into a beast. He is then seeking restoration, or resurrection, back to his human state. But he can’t get there on his own…The very next scene after he becomes a beast, is that of Belle, walking through the village, surrounded by people. Belle doesn’t look scary, like the Beast, but the villagers still treat her like one. They call her odd, and strange, and peculiar. They make fun of her and keep their kids away from her. They are scared of her because she doesn’t just follow the rules. They are beastly to her. They even sing that “it’s a pity and a sin, she doesn’t quite fit in, she’s different from the rest of us”. They say it’s a sin! They say she misses the mark, but the mark they are talking about is their own ideas of what it means to fit in. Basically, either she has to be like them or else they will not be nice to her, or be a friend to her. In reality, THEY are the ones missing the mark and sinning.
Then there is Gaston and LeFou. Gaston enters the scene as beast already! He is selfish and rude and conniving. He uses everyone around him to further his own agenda. Including his only real friend, LeFou. LeFou is a follower. He wants to be accepted. He wants to be safe. He sees how everyone listens to Gaston and Gaston is so sure of himself and he wants to be that way. He lives in Gaston’s shadow.
I feel like this movie is a powerful example of how we, as Christians, may sometimes see people that are different from us as “beasts” and we avoid them and shun them. We ARE the villagers, telling outsiders that they are odd because they don’t measure up to our standards. What we don’t see is that they are like Belle, lonely and wounded and desperately longing for something out there in the great wide somewhere to show them love! They want something more. We all do. We all want to be fully loved and fully known. Our heart longs for something more…and that something more is what only God can give us.
So now here is this story of several different groups of people who are all unknowingly needing to learn the same lesson: When we treat people the way we want to be treated, it changes us and them! When we love others, ALL others, as God loved us (even when we were depraved beasts) we see their humanity. We see that they are a person the same as us, not different or odd, or better or worse. We see they need the same thing we need.
I am all of these groups of people.
At times I am the Beast: ugly and hurtful and spiteful and unforgiving.
At times I am the villagers: self-righteous and judgmental and jealous and condemning.
At times I am Belle: serving and giving, but controlling and strong-minded.
At times I am like LeFou: desperately wanting to fit in, making bad choices to do so.
At times I am like Gaston: selfish and vain, and mean-spirited.
At times, I am all of those things. Every day I miss the mark, every day I sin. Every day I am beastly in one way or another.
The Beast saw himself as a Beast, and wanted to be human again, but was unwilling to accept that it was something he could not do himself, and thought no one would ever love him. Gaston was a beast who did not see himself as one, and thought everyone should love him and worship him. And poor LeFou…earlier in the movie, he sees that Belle is the only one who stands up to Gaston, and is not lured in by his charms. Later, when Gaston is mean to Belle’s father, LeFou questions him and sees that Gaston is mistreating people. He still feels like Gaston is only one who accepts him, but he hates that Gaston makes him lie and do bad things. We start to see indecision in LeFou.
In the song “The Mob” Gaston is telling the villagers why they need to go kill the beast and LeFou breaks in and sings “There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question. But I fear the wrong monster’s released”…I never noticed that line before yesterday! He’s starting to see that Gaston and the Villagers have become the real Beasts! Right after that the villagers sing “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us, and this monster is mysterious at least”. How true is that of people?! We don’t like what we don’t understand. When things are different than us, it scares us. We attack it.
Often…usually…people who we may see as “beasts” are really just wounded and in need of compassion and kindness and care. They need resurrected. We have to go where they are, to the crumbled down castle, and spend time with them. We have to show them what sacrificial love feels like and looks like, so that they can show it in return. We have to show them that love covers a multitude of sins, that love covers it when we miss the mark (I Peter 4:8 “And above all things, have fervent love among yourselves; for love covers a multitude of sins.”) We have show them the difference by word and actions. How we treat them EVEN WHEN THEY ARE STILL A BEAST is what makes the difference. If we expect them to change BEFORE we can hang around them, well that’s conditional love, right? God loved me and was a friend to me even when I was beastly and horrible to him. Jesus sat down and ate with sinners. He went to their house. He did it to be close and personal and show them love.
But too often, we push those “different” people away. We call them odd, weird, sinners, and think we are better than that. We act like they will contaminate us. But we don’t know we are already contaminated ourselves. Belle thought the Beast was horrible and mean and cruel. What she had going for her was that she was there because she was willing to put herself last. She was willing to enslave herself to free someone else. Her introduction to the Beast starts with him seeing love in action. She was still scared of him though. But then, she spent time with him and at the end she told the villagers “He’s not really a beast, I was wrong. He’s kind and he’s my friend.” She never would have known that if she had run away. Or if she had left him to the wolves when she tried to escape. She chose to show him compassion.
When Belle spent time with the Beast, showed him kindness and friendship, even though he was keeping her prisoner and had been mean to her father and had given her every reason to scorn him, her actions changed the Beast. It transformed him. And, you know what? It also transformed her! It changed how she looked at people. She saw that he was more than what was on the outside. She saw him as the same as her…a wounded person who longs to be loved and fully known. He ends up making an unselfish decision and chooses to make her happy even though it costs him. And when she is freed and comes back he asks her why she would do that? The answer is love.
They are not the only ones who are changed…
When LeFou gets to the castle and sees what is going on, and sees how unfairly the castle’s inhabitants are being treated, he decides he does not want to be with the ones who are attacking. He changes sides.
Everyone in this story (except Gaston because he chose his own way) is changed because they witness firsthand what real love is. They see unselfish, unearned, unconditional love in action. It changes them. It restores them. It resurrects them.
They all miss the mark on their own. But love draws them in. It helps them see their own shortcomings.
Real love changes us, it resurrects us.
It’s not OUR job to change people. It’s our job to love people like Jesus loves us, and let that love change them.
And it will. If we are willing to put ourselves last and be a friend to them.
A wise proverb says “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”
Every night when I pray with my daughter, I ask God to help her be a friend to everyone. Even the people who are not nice to her. Because that’s how God loved us. He loved us even when we were still sinners. Even when we were still a beast.
Who can love a beast? God can. And that love resurrects.
So, this movie…is it family friendly? Is it friendly? Friendly…
Oh, my, yes! It is all about how to be a friend.
Especially to people who are different than us, people who are odd, or beastly! They need it most of all. And if we, who have already experienced it, don’t show them, who will?
Don’t misread what I’m saying here. I am not saying that we love them and they just continue in their ways and it is all fine. This story would never have worked if the Beast still remained a Beast and LeFou still stayed on Gaston’s side and the villagers kept trying to attack the castle and Belle went back home to live with her father…I’m saying love came first and then that love changed them, resurrected them, to their best self. If the movie were to continue, I imagine we would continue to see changes. We would see more people affected by unselfish love.
This story is about how we all miss the mark. And that’s why we need friends. Because the love of a good friend makes us all better…and there is a Friend who is the best friend of all!
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13)
You shall love your neighbor like you love yourself. (Mark 12:31)
We are all broken people…beastly people. Who can learn to love a beast?
The One who offers the best love of all.
My lovely daughter saw that in this movie. I hope that she is always a friend to everyone. She saw the real deeper meaning. Even if the director tried to throw another thing in the story, she still saw the deeper meaning:
That we should be a friend to everyone.
Some of you hear that and are ready to get your pitchforks and rear up like the villagers, in anger and disgust, with your own justifications of why it’s okay to tear some people down, why it’s okay to treat “odd” people like outcasts, why we should not let our children be exposed to those not like us, why it’s okay to kill a beast. I will not be able to change your mind. I know this because I used to be just like you.
But you know what changed me…spending time with the “odd and beastly” people and watching them change as others showed them real love. Seeing love in action changed me at the same time it was changing them.
Now, if you personally feel convicted about not seeing this movie, then don’t do it. That is a personal thing between you and God. But don’t hold everyone else to your convictions and don’t storm the proverbial castle with anger and self-righteousness. That doesn’t build up love, it just tears down.
For us who are Christians, I ask you to simply heed Jesus’ own words:
“If you love those who love you, what beneift it that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, and expect nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32-36)
Love changes us.
You have to see it in action in order for it to change you. You have to be around it in it’s pure form. How will they see except someone show them?
How will they hear except someone tell them?
Fellow Christians, you want to really affect the director who is flaunting his addition to this movie? Start explaining to everyone what an awesome picture of God’s love it is! Even the songs from the movie speak about God’s truth!
Live a resurrected life. Don’t be a beast.
Real love, love in action and word and deed, has the power to transform us all.