The Gospel According to Pinocchio

My son gets attached to certain movies or shows and will request to see them every day, multiple times a day. I now know what ad nauseam means. [Parents, can I get an “Amen”?] Lately, we’ve been watching Pinocchio. A LOT. The more I watch the movie, however, the more upsetting it is to me. See, the more I watch it, the more I realize that it exposes a common, distorted view of God.

In the beginning, the Blue Fairy grants Geppetto’s wish for Pinocchio to be a real boy because, as she tells him, “You’ve given so much happiness to others, you deserve to have your wish come true.” But she only grants the wish for life to a point. She tells Pinocchio, “Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish and someday you’ll be a real boy.” When he fails to tell the truth, she offers limited forgiveness, “I’ll forgive you this once…”

As I watch this movie, I hear the underlying messages. “You must be worthy of real life. Earn it with good behavior. Mercy is limited.” As I said, it’s upsetting because the longer I’ve been a Christ follower, the more I realize how pervasive this thinking in our churches, even if people would never say it out loud. I see it in me, when I’m ashamed of my own mistakes and struggles and afraid of what God will say when I turn back to him. When we believe these lies, we behave as if Jesus offers us just a little bit of forgiveness and new life and we have to earn the rest through good behavior. We get tangled up trying to be “good enough”.

It was only on viewing number 1,001 (give or take) that I realized there’s another picture of God in this movie: Geppetto. Geppetto is a father-figure who lovingly crafted Pinocchio. He loves the puppet dearly and longs for this wooden boy to be alive. He even pursues Pinocchio when the puppet ends up going astray because he loves his boy that much and can’t bear to lose him.

This is who God revealed himself to be through Jesus: our creator who longs for his children to have abundant, eternal life in close relationship with him. Geppetto’s flaw is that he didn’t have the power to transform Pinocchio. Thankfully, Jesus does. We can have real life through him. He stepped out of heaven and onto earth to pursue us because he couldn’t bear to lose his children. It cost him everything, but is a free gift for those who simply believe, no strings attached.

Why, that’s something worth singing about.

I’ve got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret, or make me frown
I had strings
But now I’m free
There are no strings on me

P.S. Like this? Crossroads Church did a series called The Gospel According to Disney. You can listen to the two messages I preached on Tangled and The Incredibles (with my husband) on my Speaking page.

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