If you have children, you have seen “Beauty and the Beast.” In fact you probably own a copy! For those not into fairy tales, “The “Beast” is a Prince who could not love and was placed under a spell. In order to turn back into a Prince, he had to win the love of another and return it before his twenty-first birthday. But who could love a grotesque beast? Well, this is where the lovely Belle, a girl from a small French town who is dissatisfied with life, enters the picture.
At first Belle views him as nothing more than a monster. He sees her as stubborn and difficult. But soon they begin to change. And the beautiful Belle, sees something beyond the surface. Something deeper. Something valuable. Something lovable.
The author and theologian, G. K. Chesterton, once observed that fairy tales are more than childish capers or juvenile diversions. They often teach great moral lessons for adults. (Like Jesus’ parables do.) Chesterton’s observation about “Beauty and the Beast” is “A thing must be loved before it is lovable.”
God did that. He loved us when he didn’t love Him. When we were sinners. When we were unlovely. And so, God wants us to take the next step. He wants us to learn from Him. “Be holy for I am Holy,” He implores (1 Peter 1:16). The Teacher wants us to be like Him (Lk 6:40). We are called to follow in His steps. To feel as He felt. To care as He cared. To love as He loved.
And who did He love? The scattered. The tired. The weary. The downtrodden. The dregs of society. The Publican. The prostitute. The sinner. In a word the unlovely.
Jesus challenged them and us in His immortal sermon on the Mount to “love your enemies.” When we only love those who love us, how are we better than others? It’s easy to love our friends. To love the lovely. But it is a challenge to love our foes. To love the unlovely.
To begin such a quest, you don’t have to volunteer at a homeless shelter. Or pick up a beggar on the street. You might start in your own neighborhood. Your own family. Or in the same church building where you worship!
How often do we find people that we ought to love irritating and aggravating? Maybe they are socially inept. Or flawed with a bristly personality. Or not very bright. Or not very much fun. Or not very attractive! It’s so easy to gravitate to the winsome personality, the engaging conversationalist, and let’s be honest, the pretty face! And in so doing, to ignore the unlovely. And the unloved.
God calls us to a higher standard. A nobler motivation. A deeper love. It is love that looks beyond the surface. That delves into the heart and the soul. That sees the image of God in everyone. That remembers how God loves him or her, too. That, I too, have been unlovable, but God loved me. Never forget, “A thing must be loved before it is lovable.”
Who do you love? Pick someone today to share your love. Pick someone today who is “unlovely” and help them be lovable.
—Ken Weliever, The Preacherman