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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

'The Wizard of Oz' Still Illustrates Biblical Truths

The Wizard of Oz is easily one of the greatest movies in the history of cinema. Now 80 years old and still winning viewers’ hearts, it’s an icon of American culture. If we daydream, we conceive of life “somewhere over the rainbow”; we might impolitely refer to a female nemesis as “the wicked witch of the West”; and, in an unusual situation, we often say, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

One of the things that makes The Wizard of Oz so special is the lovable characters L. Frank Baum brought to life: Dorothy, Toto, and Glinda, of course, but also the famous trio along the Yellow Brick Road: Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion. Dorothy’s companions on the road to Oz make us all do a little self-reflection. Are we searching for intellect like Scarecrow? Do we need to be more compassionate like Tin Man? Or are we fearful and in need of courage like Cowardly Lion?

Deciding which character is the most popular could quickly turn into a hotly contested debate. While completely subjective and only a matter of opinion, a leisurely surf of blog sites around the web seems to point to Cowardly Lion. His wimpiness is so pathetic, it’s funny, loveable, and unforgettable. His embellished portrayals of cowardice — weeping after Dorothy slaps him, jumping out a window in the Emerald City — put us in touch with our own feelings of trepidation whenever we experience an unsettling situation. Nevertheless, Cowardly Lion reminds us how pitiful cowardice is. In the end, he challenges us to rise to the occasion in the face of fear.

Cowardly Lion actually demonstrates something that God’s Word tells us in Revelation 21:8. Here, the Lord was encouraging His people to persevere through their many challenges so they could inherit the fullness of God’s blessing in the eschaton. The challenges were not light: political idolatry, persecution, isolation from society, and the temptation to assimilate into a wicked culture. To be faithful to Christ and endure these trials, the church needed to be bold and courageous. They’d have to stand up against the Beast (see Revelation 13) and refuse to give worship to Caesar.

In fact, this was so serious that the Lord said, “As for the cowardly ... their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” The Greek word for “cowardly” is deilos. It means “timid,” “afraid,” “one who always runs away,” and even, “one who runs away at nothing,” like our friend, Cowardly Lion. It was used to describe skittish and nervous animals that fled at even the slightest hint of the unknown. Here, it refers to those who have no courage, empty faith, and can’t be counted on to stay faithful to Christ when their personal comforts and safety are put at risk. They’d rather run in terror and jump out the window than have to stand and face any opposition.

God said people like this will be excluded from His presence and live separated from Him eternally. It’s that serious. Therefore, we must be courageous and stand with Christ no matter what the world says or does next. Nevertheless, God’s Word tells us that there are those in the church who won’t. They will end up cowering when given the chance. This might mean modifying their practices to suit secularism in order to fit in, dismissing or explaining away biblical truths to seem more tolerant, or even compromising the exclusivity of Christ and the cross so as to not come off as “bigoted.”

You might shake your head at it now, but one thing is certain: you can expect there will come a time when you’ll have to be bold for Jesus. Push comes to shove for all of us, especially as the current culture continues to heave lasciviousness our way. Christianity will require more than just an amen from the pew, a like on Instagram, or attending a conference with our favorite speakers. In that moment, we will find out if we have what it takes to stand with the Lion of Judah ... or if we are running away like Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz.

If you don’t feel very bold right now, you can search out the Master for courage. Through His Word and Spirit, and the fellowship we share with one another as His church, He will strengthen your heart and establish your resolve. Making the weak strong is the Lord’s specialty. He knows your heart and He can transform it as soon as you surrender it to Him. So be cheerful! If Cowardly Lion can find courage, you certainly can, too.

Copyright © 2019 Chris Palmer, used with permission.
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