I saw a very entertaining movie this week. The animation was beautiful. The story line was magical. And the theme – well, I think there might have been a few themes, but one was about how we see God.
Kubo – the hero of Kubo and the Two Stings – is a young boy who flees with his mother from his grandfather, the Moon King. As the story unfolds, we learn that the Moon King is an immortal who lives in the heavens and has little use for earth-bound humans. One of his three daughters fell in love with a human, married him, and had a son – Kubo. Outraged, the Moon King stole one of Kubo’s eyes. Now he is after Kubo and his mother to take Kubo’s other eye. Why? Because he wants Kubo to be blind like him – blind to the suffering and messiness of humanity – so he will be able to join his grandfather in the heavens.
As I watched the movie, especially the end when Kubo meets his grandfather face-to-face, I couldn’t help thinking that to many people, God looks a lot like the Moon King. They see him as distant, vengeful, and blind to the suffering and messiness of humanity. Why else would he not end our suffering? Why else would he remain deaf to our prayers? Why else would he condemn us simply for being human?
I have a dear friend who turned from atheism to Christianity as a young woman, and now she has turned back to atheism. She sees God like this – vengeful and blind. She is angry with the God she once believed in and with all his people who act out of vengeful spite and hypocrisy. I weep for my friend, and I’m praying that her eyes will be open to the reality of a loving, caring, forgiving God – one who not only lives in the heavens but also lives with us, his children, and feels our pain, confusion, guilt, and fear.
I love the fact that when Jesus was born into the world he was called Immanuel. It means “God with us.” Jesus lived as a child, a teenager, and an adult. He had parents and siblings and friends. He ate and slept and wept. The Bible says, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). It tells us that Jesus is able to “empathize with our weaknesses” because he “has been tempted in every way, just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15).
I used to think that Jesus had to come to earth to experience our lives so he could understand us, but I have come to a different opinion now. I believe that Jesus – God in the flesh – came to earth to prove to us that he already did understand us. He already loved us, suffered with us, and understood our weaknesses. He came so we could see his love and compassion in the flesh – love that healed the sick and fed the hungry, love that welcomed sinners and outsiders, love that died so we could be made alive.
In Kubo and the Two Strings, the hero is asked to choose between cold, heartless immortality and the messiness and suffering of humanity. I’m glad I don’t have to choose. My God may be high above me and hard to understand at times, but I know he loves me. And in his Name, he has commanded me to love my neighbor, next door, across town, and around the world.
He sees. He hears. He loves. Go, share that love.
What is my mission as an author? It's a tough question, but I believe the goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they really believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.