The Gospel According to Simba…

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My wife loves the Lion King. She told me that a few years ago, but didn’t really make a big deal about it. We didn’t even buy the movie. Just before Emery was born we were given the generous gift to see the Off Broadway Musical version of it. We expected nose bleed seats; they were free tickets after all. 2nd row! Like, from the stage. It was incredible. Anyway, I digress. Nicole wanted to introduce Emery to this film. She was nervous that Emery wouldn’t like it. Well, holy crap. Emery is more than obsessed with this movie. I have seen it more in the past 3 months than ever in my life. She even wakes up every morning singing Hakuna Matata!

Perhaps I have seen the movie one too many times, but I have come to believe that it is one of the most beautifully spiritual movies of our day. Some of you are waiting for the punchline, but I’m serious! For those of you who have lived under a rock for the past 20 years or so, the Lion King is the story of a young lion named Simba. He is heir to the thrown at Pride Rock, but loses his father when he was very young. His father was killed by his uncle, Scar, but Simba is convinced that it is his fault. He is convinced that the others will never understand that it was an accident and that he should just run away. He does and gets in good with a problem free gang made up of a warthog and mierkat. He eventually is convinced to reclaim his thrown and he does so in dramatic fashion, exposing his uncle for the sinister, power hungry lion he is.

The turning point for Simba comes during a strange encounter with a crazy monkey who acts as the sort of spiritual guide for the lions in the film. The monkey tells Simba to look into the water; there he would find his father. Simba sees only his own reflection until he looks harder. He then has an incredible encounter with his father from beyond the veil. His father says, “You have forgotten me, Simba”. Simba denies this, to which his father says, “You have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me.” Wow!

Simba was so convinced of his own guilt that he thought it was powerful enough to negate the reality of who he is; the king of Pride Rock. His uncle had convinced him that the sins of his past negated the truth of who he was born to be. It’s only after he realizes this to be false that he finds the courage to acknowledge his true identity, which was not found in his sin, but rather his birth.

I am not sure that Disney intended to convey a deep Gospel truth in this film, but they did so in a more profound way than most movies that try. In forgetting who we really are (Children of God, Formed in God’s Divine Image), we are forgetting God. We are made in God’s Image. The sins of our past cannot negate that. Once we are able to look at our reflection and see God’s Image maybe we will find the courage to be who we really are. Maybe we will begin to see ourselves as we are and God as He is. Maybe then we will experience what Jesus says is “eternal life.”

“This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Amen.

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