My wife and I recently watched the live movie version of “Beauty and the Beast.” It is indeed a “tale as old as time.”
The Beast, who was previous to his enchantment a self-centered self-indulgent so and so, has, under a spell, become his frightening ignoble self. It is not pretty. His castle is dark and his heart as well.
He is a person of shadows and black scowls and jowls, seemingly without an ounce of redeemable qualities. Then, along comes Belle. She is pure-hearted and honest, without an ounce of guile within her. The actress, Emma Watson, was perfect for the part. Belle eventually looks beyond the Beast’s repulsiveness – both physically and in his character. She sees him for what he can become and for what he has always meant to be. She sees nobility rather than petty self-indulgence, compassion rather than a chip on his shoulder, humor rather than somber grimness. In a sense, Belle loves the Beast into the princeliness always intended for him. He would have died within his Beastliness, never experiencing life as it was intended for him, if Belle had not saved him with her love.
Last month we celebrated Easter and Holy Week. We have remembered love graphically displayed on the cross and love victorious and triumphant over all in the resurrection. Jesus has dealt with the ugliness of sin in what is truly a tale as old as time. We would have died enslaved to sin, bound by our beastliness and not able to experience grace and unconditional love and peace and relationship – but Jesus has saved us! We are truly loved!
What Belle did for the Beast, Jesus has done for us. He has literally loved us into nobility, compassion and godly joy. He has loved us into grace and love and peace and righteousness. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” We can trust God and entrust ourselves to one another, living into our nobility because he loves us. We are transformed from a kind of beastliness to princes and princesses of the King…what has always been intended for us. And, because this is true, we can treat each other this way as well. We can rejoice in our royalty and love each other as royal ones. And, we, like Belle, can look past the beastliness of others all about us and love them into their created humanity.
C.S. Lewis, the noted author, states, “The follower of Jesus does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
There is a very moving scene in the movie, where the Beast, face buried in his dinner bowl, is wolfing down his food barbarically. Rather than reproach him or look disgustedly at him, Belle accepts him and picks up her own bowl and daintily drinks from it. She affirms him and in doing so she begins to convince him he is lovable and loved.
To be consistently convinced of God’s love for us always results in transformation into our true selves. And, when we are transformed, personally and as a community, we are living out right here on the Plateau a “tale as old as time.”