Love

The Gospel of Beauty and the Beast

The Gospel of Beauty and the Beast // Leslie Ann Jones

Way back in April I took the girls to see Beauty and the Beast, and I started writing this post the very next week, but summer happened, and this sat in the drafts folder for a very, very long time. Well, last month, Micah got the DVD for her birthday, and when we watched it, I found myself captivated all over again. (As a side note, did you know that it's on Netflix right now?)

The movie was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it to be, and each time the cast broke out in song, I felt the little girl inside me squealing with delight. But this post isn't about all the merits of the film (of which there are many) or a handful of questionable scenes.

This post is about the gospel.

As Belle stepped onto the dance floor in that famous ballroom scene, tears pricked my eyes. The familiar words to Tale as Old as Time filled the air, and I realized for the first time that Beauty and the Beast is far more than a fairy tale. It's more than a princess story, and it's more than a happy ending.

It's a gospel story.

I know, I know. I can practically see you rolling your eyes. But give me a minute (or five) to explain. The Beast is as terrible as they come. He's selfish and angry and has an awful temper. His cruelty banishes him to a wretched life in a frigid wasteland void of light, joy, and love.

It was a miserable existence.

And then he meets someone who calls him to account for his beastly nature. Belle sees him. She sees the hideousness of the curse and she does not turn away. Instead, she loves him, and that love changes him. It redeems him and transforms him and makes him new.

Aren't we all a little bit like the Beast before Jesus transforms us with his redeeming love?

We are just as monstrous as the Beast apart from Jesus. That's the effect of sin in our lives. It wrecks us. Destroys us. Leaves us in ruin. We are just as cursed, just as doomed as the Beast. Our hearts are a wasteland as cold and barren as the winter that surrounds his castle.

But God. 

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8, ESV)

Did you catch that? God loved us while we were sinners. He loved us when we were knee-deep in the mess and muck of depravity. He loved us before we loved him back. He has seen us at our most unlovely, and he has not turned away.

Do you understand what it means for God to love you like that? It means that you can't scare him off. He knows you. He has seen the darkest corners of your heart. The ugly parts that you try to hide. He has plumbed the depths of your depravity. And he has not turned away. No. He sees you. He knows you. And he loves you even still. 

Though our sin is pervasive, it does not define us. There is no one too beastly—too wretched—for God's love. No sin too terrible. No secret too big. No one is beyond his reach. He sees past the ugliness of our sin to the heart that lies within. And when we finally surrender to the pull of his love, he breathes life back into our cold, barren hearts. The ugliness of the curse falls right off our shoulders. We are made new.

It's a tale as old as time itself. It's the story of the gospel.

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV)

Until next time, grace and peace.


I hesitated to write this post because I know that the movie is controversial in a lot of Christian circles. I'm not saying that it's a direct parallel to the gospel. Only that it contains some redemptive elements that make for a breathtaking illustration of the curse of sin in our lives and the love that breaks its hold on us.

In our little family, we have chosen not to shy away from controversial books, movies, or topics. Do we shield our children? Absolutely. As much as possible...But as parents, we want to be the ones to shape the conversation when challenging issues arise. We want to weigh in on the issues. And most importantly, we want to help our children evaluate the messages of this fallen world against the timeless truth of Scripture. If we don't teach them how to do this, then who will? 


5 Things Parenting Taught Me About God

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: parenting is not for the faint of heart. It's hard, often thankless work, but it's also rewarding and so, so sweet. Outside of the marriage relationship (which deserves a post of its own) there are few things in life that have taught me more about the relationship between God and humanity than parenting. Here are just a few things I've learned over the past four and a half years.

1. Unconditional love cannot be earned or unearned.

"I will always love you. Always. No matter what. You will always be my baby, and I will always be your mommy." This is a conversation I have with Micah quite frequently. Usually after she's gotten herself in trouble. I remind her over and over again that even when I don't like her behavior I love her because she's my daughter. I couldn't unlove her if I tried.

It is much the same way with God. He loves us. He really, really loves us. Not because we've somehow earned His favor or worked our way into His good graces, but simply because He is our Father. The Bible says that He loved us when we were at our most unlovable (Romans 5:6-8), which comes as a great deal of comfort to someone like me.

He doesn't wait for us to get our acts together before extending His love to us. Quite the contrary. He loves us when we are vile, wretched sinners who have hit rock bottom. He loves us when we are as unlovely as you can imagine, which boils down to this: God's love can be neither earned nor unearned. It is a freely given gift of grace.

Here's the deal. I'm a sinner. I mess up. I do things I shouldn't do. Those things displease God greatly, and there are consequences for them, but it doesn't mean He has stopped loving me. Just as nothing my girls do can stop me from loving them, nothing I do can make God unlove me. What a relief that is. We'll get on to why in number two.

2. Disobedience is almost always personal.

The other day, Micah sneaked a piece of gum after I had forbidden it. She willfully disobeyed me, choosing to place her personal desire for gum over my clear instructions to the contrary. When I discovered her disobedience, I was heartbroken. I know, I know. It's just a piece of gum. But I took it personally because her actions showed that she lacked respect for my authority as her mother and cared more about satisfying her temporary craving than pleasing me.

After I calmed down, I thought about how many times in the past 31 years I've disappointed the Lord by willfully disobeying His clear instructions. I've put my own desires over His commands on countless occasions, showing that I care more about my personal (and fleeting) satisfaction than living a life that honors and pleases Him.

I wonder how often I have been a source of grief for the Lord. I would like to think that the grief has been minimal, but the truth is I've disappointed Him on countless occasions. That's why I'm so thankful that the unconditional love of the Lord cannot be earned or unearned. That leads us to number three.

3. Tough love is sometimes necessary.

Disobedience demands discipline, and I can guarantee you that it's not fun for anyone involved. As much as it broke my heart to do so, I couldn't let the gum incident go by without addressing the disobedience. After discussing what happened, Micah chose her punishment, and I doled it out. Neither of us enjoyed it, but I did it because I'm more interested in shaping her character than making her happy. Sometimes that means that the love I show her is tough indeed.

God loves us too much to leave us the way we are. It is true that we can't unearn His love, but it is equally true that He disciplines disobedience because of that love. He won't overlook our sin just because He loves us. He will do whatever it takes to shake our hands loose from the world so that we'll cling to Him instead. Seriously. It only takes a cursory reading of the Old Testament to discover that God sent the people of Israel into exile as a last-ditch effort to get their attention when they had wandered away from Him. If that's not tough love, I don't know what is.

4. Timing is everything.

I knew we were having supper in about 10 minutes. That's why I told Micah she couldn't have the gum. Besides, she doesn't like spearmint. Every single time she tries it, she spits it out in disgust, but that's beside the point. The point is that not knowing the plan doesn't mean that there isn't one.

A lot of disobedience boils down to a lack of trust. If Micah had only trusted me to know what was best, she wouldn't have gotten into trouble. The same thing is true for us. So many times, we make a mess of things because we didn't just wait and see what God had planned.

Abraham is the perfect example. He spent 25 years waiting on God to fulfill longstanding promises. Along the way, he lost focus and took matters into his own hands, which, as you can imagine, didn't turn out so well. In the end, the promises are fulfilled on God's timetable, and not a moment sooner.

The "not right now" of God doesn't necessarily mean "never." We would do well to remember that the Lord knows what He's doing even when we don't. That's what makes the last point oh-so-sweet.

5. Sacrifice comes with the territory.

As hard as this parenting business is, and as frustrating as it can be, this one thing I know for certain: I love my children so much that I would die for them without a moment's hesitation. I wouldn't have to stop to think about it. There would be no weighing of the pros and cons. I would just do it, because that's what love does. It sacrifices itself for the good of others.

Any parent knows well the sacrifices that come with the job. From giving up countless nights of sleep to leaving behind dream jobs to making sure that all of their little needs are met before you even begin to consider your own, you know what it means to lay aside your own needs/wants/desires to make sure their needs/wants/desires are taken care of.

Think about all the things you would do to protect your children from harm. Now multiply that by 10 million. Those are the kinds of lengths God went to when He died for us. He knew that we would never be able to reach Him on our own, so He did the only thing a loving Father could do. He came to us. He made a way for us to reach Him. He sacrificed Himself for us. Without hesitation. Simply because He loves us.

I didn't really understand that kind of love before I had kids. Intellectually, I grasped the concept, but I didn't really get it until I became a mama and realized that I would gladly throw myself in front of an oncoming train just to shove my baby off the tracks. That's exactly what happened on the cross. We were standing in the middle of the tracks completely oblivious to the locomotive bearing down on us when Jesus stepped in front of us to save us. Now that's love.

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These are just a few things that parenting has helped me understand about God and His love. There is really SO much about His character that I understand more clearly now that I'm a mom. Surely I'm not the only one. What about you? What have you learned about God since becoming a parent? Speak up and join the conversation in the comments!

Until next time, grace and peace.