In my younger days, I loved going to the movies. They transported me to places I’d never been, sometimes worlds I could have never imagined. They were fun, entertaining, and left me with happy memories. Today, not so much.
Most films these days seem saturated with violence, random sex, and a oft-subtle but clearly amoral worldview, one that stands for anything but godly values and principles presented in the Scriptures. I’ve sworn off watching award shows that ooze with an unwarranted sense of elitism, self-aggrandizement, and narcissism. But occasionally, whether by accident or intent, the industry manages to produce a film I can applaud.
Recently I wrote about one of them, “Same Kind of Different as Me.” The other day I saw another, “Wonder,” starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and a little fellow named Jacob Tremblay. It’s about Auggie Pullman, a boy afflicted with a rare facial deformity. After multiple surgeries, and years of being homeschooled by his mother, it’s time for Auggie to enter a public school to continue his education.
Predictably, his fellow students are initially repelled by his appearance. The young guy, already too aware that he’s “different,” is forced to deal with daily emotional trauma. He even suffers betrayal by another boy who initially befriended him.
Spoiler alert: By movie’s end, everyone learns to look past Auggie’s external appearance and discover his intrinsic, inner beauty. If you don’t like “happily ever after” films, then be sure to pass on this one.
“Wonder” doesn’t carry an overtly Christian message, but does affirm some foundational biblical values. As someone has said, all truth is God’s truth – and the truths in this film trace back to the Scriptures.
It reminded me of the prophet Samuel seeking to identify the successor to Israel’s King Saul, who had proved himself quite unworthy of leading God’s chosen people. The Lord directed Samuel to Jesse, who had several sons that seemed likely candidates. However, one by one each was eliminated until the only one that remained was the humble shepherd boy, David.
When asked why He had passed over more robust, more physically impressive options, God replied, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
That’s not the only place that principle is mentioned. For instance, Proverbs 21:2 tells us, “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Our intentions and motives matter.
In our humanness, we tend to become swayed by outward appearances. If someone isn’t well-groomed, or appears grossly overweight, or seems hampered by some disability, we’re tempted to lower our assessment of them. The worlds of TV and film have accentuated these attitudes, promoting stars who are mostly beautiful, slim and curvy if they’re female, rugged and well-toned if they’re male. We’ve all heard the adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” but we’re obviously not convinced.
God has very different criteria, however, according to the Scriptures. In fact, the Old Testament offers this amazing description of the coming Messiah: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:2-3).
It astounds me – especially during this Christmas season when we anticipate celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, when God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) – that He chose not to come as a Robert Redford, Charlton Heston, or Denzel Washington-type. Instead, even though we have no photos or portraits from the time to prove it, Jesus apparently wasn’t all that much to look at.
But that’s consistent with what God emphasizes in the Scriptures. He puts little stock in outward appearances. Instead, He considers the inner person, and that’s where His transformational work takes place in our lives.
In 1 Peter 3:3-4 we read of what the Lord desires of wives, although the principle can be applied to men and women alike. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
As the film “Wonder” shows us, we err when we put too much emphasis on a person’s eye appeal and fail to search for the individual’s inner beauty. Because if we’re willing to invest the time and effort to take a closer look, we might find a work of art nestled inside a rather ordinary exterior.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.