I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past few days meditating over two different Scriptures. The first is found in Matthew 5:37, “Let what you say simply be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, anything more than this comes from evil.” The next is found in Titus 3:1-2, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Thinking deeply about these Scriptures provide a picture of a Christian life that cuts against the grain of much of the discourse in our culture, even in the Church. What gets celebrated quite often today is exactly the opposite of the profile of the person described in these Scriptures. Verbose, rebellious, argumentative, critical and rude gets one noticed. Quiet, submissive, gentle and courteous gets one mocked. Courtesy isn’t a topic that gets discussed all that often these days, particularly in the context of what it means to be a Christian disciple. Submission is only brought up when we want to remind others of how that concept has been twisted to hold people down. We live in a world where even Christians feel compelled to be fluent in snark, social media burns and outrage. Meditating over these Scriptures has been an eye-opening experience for me. It’s convicted me of how often I operate in spirit that can be described as anything other than submissive and polite. As I thought over these verses, a worthy role model popped into my mind. Someone who embodied these character traits in a way that brought both a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. Someone who is truly a hero for our times. Who is this hero? None other than Paddington Bear. Don’t laugh. I’m deadly serious. Okay, maybe there’s a bit of a wink and smirk in this – but not as much as one might think.
A few weeks ago our family took in “Paddington Bear 2” at the movie theater. It was an easy choice for our family because of how much we all enjoyed the first movie. The sequel was unquestionably better. The character of Paddington Bear stands out like a sore thumb in our contentious age. Unfailingly polite, his impact on his family, neighbors and even hardened criminals (I won’t go into detail there, it would spoil the plot) always brings the best out of others. He changes the atmosphere everywhere he goes. He is motivated by a genuine love for family, friends and neighbors and always wants to help. In a rare feat in our entertainment culture, Paddington’s genuine goodness is presented without irony or subtext. On the contrary, Paddington’s goodness is celebrated. But Paddington isn’t weak. He risks for others, does the right thing when it is difficult and can be fierce when it is required. His heroism is motivated completely by love. As unlikely as it might seem, I can’t think of a single thing about the movie or the character of Paddington Bear that isn’t a tonic for the soul that hits squarely in the center of the target of what I think that I am called to be in my family and in my community.
Think about the world we live in. Think about how much of the discourse that is exchanged in the strange online world of social media that we somehow think is normal is motivated by anything but love. Think about how much of our emotional investment has been given over to flat, two-dimensional, communication in forums without facial expression, voice tone, body language or any of the myriad other characteristics that makes interaction truly human. What do we need in our world desperately? Speaking for myself, I can’t say that I need more quarreling, more snark, more criticism or speaking evil of others. Courtesy, gentleness, straightforward and honest loving communication and connection hits much closer to the mark. It would be a balm for our culture’s soul. Maybe if we celebrate a character like Paddington as a hero for our times, our times might produce a lot more to be celebrated. I want to be a lot more like Paddington. Will you join me?