In a world where it seems that just about every plotline has already been made into a movie, many studios turn to great books as the baseline of their films. After all, it’s more difficult (but not impossible) to make a bad movie when the source content is excellent. That is, when the book has proven the skill of its author, and has demonstrated its appeal to many readers, adapting it to a movie offers a chance to share this content with others in a new way.
When a book is adapted into a movie, it seems to inevitably lead to comparisons between the book and the movie, and which one is “better”. In our family, when we see this happening, either my wife or I often describe this situation as, “Separate Works of Art1. This isn’t our own idea: it is a principle applied when the intellectual property of the book and the movie are considered sufficiently independent that they can be licensed separately, which can lead to entire parallel lines of advertising, merchandise, video games, and even spin-offs.
Once one accepts that a movie and a book are separate works of art, it becomes easier to appreciate the positive elements of each, as well as the areas where there is both overlap and difference.
On what might seem like a totally different topic: There is an old illustration about a son who wanted to grow his hair long, despite the objections of his dad. When the son was asked to cut his hair, he argued that “Jesus had long hair”2. The parent let it go, but when the son asked to borrow the car a few days later, the reply was, “Jesus walked everywhere he went!”.
In reality, our lives aren’t exactly the same as Jesus. He lived before television (really!) before automobiles, and (believe it or not) before the Internet. However, the examples of His character – His integrity, His love for others, His wisdom – are just as applicable to “modern life” (which remains modern only for a season) as they were in the first century.
However, while our environment is different from the first century Middle East, one might say that our lives should be something like the “movie version” of Jesus’ walk here on earth. Our circumstances aren’t necessarily the same as His, and we won’t be able to sacrifice our lives for fallen humanity, nor will we be God. However, the fruit of the Spirit – which He demonstrated completely – should be visible in our lives. We are certainly “separate works of art”, compared to Jesus; yet, the basic plot of our lives – pointing people to God the Father – should be the same.
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:7-8 NASB
(See also 1 Corinthians 11:1.)
On the other hand, if we model our lives after examples that are inferior to our perfect example (whether we put human beings on a pedestal, or just pick bad things to emulate), we’ll probably turn out like a movie based on a bad book: unlikely to be much better than the source material.
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.
3 John 1:11 NASB
Like a typical movie adaptation of a great book, our lives won’t be as good as the original (Jesus). However, with some good directing and script-writing, others can learn about the reality of Jesus by watching our lives. And, hopefully they will be motivated to read the Book, as well!
- When we so this, we try to use our best “announcer” voice, and say it like “Separate. Works. Of. Art.” ↩
- Whether or not Jesus really did have long hair, as shown in many children’s picture-books, is a separate topic. I think that it’s safe to say that, since He was of Jewish descent, He almost certainly was not blond or pale-skinned, though! ↩