Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful

Thursday, 12 June 2014  | Narelle - MECS Principal
One of my all-time favourite films is ‘Life is Beautiful’. Set in fascist Italy at the outbreak of the Second World War, the film is about a Jewish-Italian family which experiences the horrors of the Holocaust.

The main character is a waiter with an irrepressible optimism and love for life. He embraces every activity and experience with a passion that leaves one breathless – from courting his future wife, to speaking at a school assembly, to serving customers, to riding his bike. To protect his young son from the obscenity of the ‘death camp’ to which they are taken as Jews he tells his son that they are playing a game, with an absolutely fantastic prize at the end for winners. Every aspect of the camp is interpreted as an element of the game. The harsh German commands of the Nazi guards are translated into Italian as the rules of the game. The food deprivation is to test the stamina of the players. Secrecy and discretion is needed because other players may gain an advantage.

And so the young boy interprets all obscenities of the concentration camp in terms of the game, played with determination in spite of all the discomforts, pain and trauma. For the boy, the game becomes the reality of his existence, and so the father helps the son to survive the awful trauma of the camp. When the going gets really tough and the boy wants to go home, the father draws him back in with the goal and vision of the prize. In sustaining the reality of the game the father actually sacrifices his own life so that his son survives.

Although the film’s director probably had nothing like it in mind, ‘Life is Beautiful’ is an appropriate analogy of the Christian life. We can live with optimism, enthusiasm and passion because life IS beautiful, in spite of its deep ugliness in many places and on many occasions. We can live with hope because of the ‘prize’ that is the coming Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul had his fair share of hardships and setbacks. Not many of us can ‘boast’ of being shipwrecked, flogged, beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed, slandered and ignored! Paul would have had some amazing stories of survival to tell his grandchildren if he’d made it that far. Some of our stresses and discomforts pale into insignificance compared to his. You wonder at his staying power, his tenacity, his sheer ability to weather every physical assault and emotional blow. Mind you there are lots of indications in his letters that he often despaired, was torn by doubts, was frustrated by some of the people he had to deal with, and sometimes felt like throwing in the towel altogether.

However, in Philippians 3 he writes, “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us… there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re awaiting the arrival of the Saviour, the Master; Jesus Christ … He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and round him.”

One of the secrets of Paul’s endurance was his overwhelming sense of vision about the Kingdom to come. He had an unshakeable sense of who controlled the future and a confidence in his own journey towards the ‘prize’. For Paul there was a new world coming – he already lived, worked, played and worshipped as a ‘citizen of heaven’. And this prize, the consummated presence of God’s Kingdom, was everything to Paul. 

As God’ people living in this part of the biblical story, hopefully we have the necessary imagination and courage to also live as ‘citizens of heaven’. We already see signs of it everywhere – in the people we meet, in the congregations we worship in, in the generosity and support of family and friends, in the mercy and grace we experience, in the life of this school. But may we continue to work for the ultimate prize – when God’s Kingdom comes in all its fullness and completeness – and in the meantime, may we be the signposts of it coming!

MECS Principal

Got something to add?

  • Your Comment