Jaws is one of my favorite all-time movies. I used to listen to the score via my brown and white plastic Fisher Price record player when I was a kid. I had seen all the Jaws movies by the time I was eight, but the original is the only one that I really loved. My parents have stories from the summer of 1975 when the movie came out, how they went to the beach per the usual, but NO ONE was in the water. Themselves included. Ankle deep was as far as they went that summer. That is the impact of this one movie.
I've been reading Ephesians lately, and when I hit chapter 5 verse 1, I immediately thought of Jaws. Here is the verse: "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children." Why did I think of a man-eating great white? Here's why. (Don't worry--there are no sharks in this clip and no blood!)
One of the things that really deterred me from Christianity when I was young and growing up in the church was the idea that I had to follow all these rules, and I was not particularly good at it. I had guilt I didn't know what to do with, and I had a sense that I was not good enough. When I come to verses that tell me to be an imitator of God that feeling comes back, just a little. I am a really bad imitator of God, even as a Christian now.
But that's not all the verse says. It says AS dearly loved children. The reality is this: our place is already secure at the table. We are the children of God already if we believe in the work Jesus did on the cross--not because we were good enough imitators to earn a seat. We are AT the table. We ARE His dearly loved children. Our motive is not to earn love any more than Chief Brody's son was trying to earn his father's love in that scene from Jaws.
When you have the perspective of the gospel, the whole thing turns on its head. I think many people are like I was--assuming that being a Christian is for a bunch of people who want to be good, who try to be moral. Instead, being a Christian means that you have had to face the fact that you will never be good enough to earn a spot, so instead you trust in Jesus. (That reality does not always come through when you look at how Christians live, but that's another blog post altogether.)
The imitation in Ephesians 5:1 comes AFTER we are already dearly loved children. The difference between that imitation and the imitation of someone trying to earn a spot at the table is motive. Like Brody's son, we imitate because we love. It's a form of worship almost, the son mimicking his father. He wants to BE who his father is. There is a freedom in that kind of imitation because it is not trying to earn something. Imitation within the confines of a secure relationship flows straight from love and is a way of returning love. I have been loved, I AM loved--and I want to be like the one who loves me.
Who knew that there were spiritual lessons in Jaws? Next week we'll examine the metaphor of "we're going to need a bigger boat."