This weekend, I had the good fortune of attending Northville High School’s production of Beauty and the Beast. I can’t be unbiased (I have a son at NHS), but it was a spectacular show! The stage version of this timeless tale features show-stopping musical numbers, lavish costumes, and a touching storyline.
In the Beauty and the Beast, Belle, a young woman in a small provincial town, meets the Beast, in reality a young prince whose lack of compassion has trapped him in a spell placed by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and to be loved, the curse will be broken and he will be transformed into his former self.
The story is about more than just learning to look past physical appearance and finding love in the heart. At its core, this is a story of transformation. The selfish beast is transformed into the noble loving prince he was created to be. Belle is transformed from a naïve day-dreaming girl into a princess who sees people for who they can become. The castle servants are transformed from objects into people of purpose.
When you think about it, most of the stories we love are stories of transformation. Frogs become princes; ugly ducklings become swans; Clark Kent becomes superman; potatoes become French fries — you get the idea. I think these stories resonate with our own desire to experience transformation.
The desire for transformation is, I believe, common to all people. We long to become something different, something better, something more than we are. We are not who we were meant to be, not by a long shot. Because of our own selfish ways, we have fallen under a dark curse. We long to be transformed and to be restored as the prince or princess we were made to be. We wait for someone or something that has the power to set us free from the curse, someone who will love us in spite of our beastly state, someone who will bring hope for the future. The story of transformation lies at the heart of the Christian gospel.
Jesus came to set us free from the curse and to restore us. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we connect with God in Jesus Christ, we are changed – genuinely changed. When transformation happens, I don’t just do the things Jesus would have done; I find myself wanting to do them. I don’t just go around trying to do right things; I become the right sort of person. Paul writes, “Be not conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).
When we talk about the changes that people experience when connected to God, it is important that we talk about the right kinds of changes. A national survey asked people to name the differences between Christians and non-Christians. The top two answers were that Christians attend church more and are more judgmental. This is not the transformation envisioned in the Scriptures. True spiritual life always leads us to become more loving.
In one episode of the television show, The Simpsons, Homer asked his fundamentalist neighbors where they’d been. They responded, “We went away to a Christian camp. We were learning how to be more judgmental.”
God has more. Don’t settle for a false or superficial transformation. The good news as Jesus preached it is not about doing more religious activity or attempting to appear more righteous. It is about the glorious redemption of human life — your life. Find out more at any local church this Sunday.