What can we learn from The Greatest Showman?

I have to admit it – my wife and I are movie enthusiasts. We go at least once a week, sometimes twice. We have always enjoyed seeing movies together. Most are enjoyable. A few have not been. Rarely do I leave the theater emotionally moved.

Until last week.

We went to see The Greatest Showman, a PG movie about the origins of P.T. Barnum’s circus. The movie was part history, part musical, and had a message that has resonated with people worldwide. There’s a lot of buzz online about this movie. What can we learn from this as teachers? As believers? A lot!

The movie’s message was a simple one: you’re unique. You matter. You’re not a throwaway. The world may have told you that you’re worthless, a misfit, and someone who is unlovable. But that’s incorrect.

The movie’s main message is this: You’re unique. You’re important. You can be a part of a bigger family of people. Embrace your uniqueness. Be proud of who you are. You have value. You are loved. There’s a place for you.

Wow. No wonder people have said things like, “This movie is my life” and “The movies title song, ‘This is Me,’ is my new anthem.” People want to find acceptance. People want to know that others see the value in them.

The Bible’s message is similar to the one in the film, but even more powerful. God has declared his love for us at the cross. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us. He created you to have an abundant life. You are uniquely and wonderfully made. People are responding in such positive ways to the message in the movie. Shouldn’t they respond equally well to the message of the cross? To the love of God in Christ?

As we teach and lead our Bible study groups, don’t expect people to arrive in good condition. They are going to show up like the prodigal son did – messy, broken, and hurting. Don’t ask them to clean themselves up before you accept them. Don’t condemn (Christians unfortunately have a bit of a reputation for this). Embrace them as they are. That’s how Christ accepted you. Affirm their worth. See them as people who need a holy God to transform them.

To see the power of this film’s message, watch this YouTube video (about 5 minutes long) of the very first rehearsal of the movie’s anthem song, “This is Me.” The woman, Keala Settle, who sings the song and stars in the movie as the bearded lady, breaks down at the end rehearsal. Toward the end of the song, the star of the movie, Hugh Jackman, can be seen reaching out to her to support her and hold her hand to give her strength to continue singing. He then stands up and spontaneously dances and experiences a joy like few people have known as the message of the song hits home with him. The entire cast celebrates the message of the movie with great joy. It’s really quite a special moment.

Wouldn’t it be great if our Bible study groups celebrated the message of God’s acceptance of us like these people celebrated the message of the song “This is Me”? While the movie says, “This is me – I’m unique – I’m valuable – I’m special just as I am,” don’t forget that the message of the Bible is even better: “Yes, you are absolutely unique and special – Jesus loves you. But there’s more to you and more to life than who you are right now today. God wants to take who you are and build from there. He wants to transform you into the image of His Son!”

The message of the Bible builds upon the message of the film and is ultimately a much superior message. Let’s learn what we can from the way people are responding to the movie. They desire acceptance. They want to be loved. They want to know they matter. They like the idea of being a unique creation. Let’s tell them about Jesus, who does all of that and much more! Enjoy this video – it’s powerful!

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