They will know we are “whos from whoville” by our love.
The 2018 film, The Grinch, had me leaking tears. Not sure when my heart became so tender, but I am a sucker for children’s stories that mirror the Gospel.
Amidst the cooky gadgets and gag-reels (that had me shamelessly laughing out loud), this film portrays important parallels to our need for community, and God’s mandate of hospitality.
Cindy-Lou Who cares deeply for her mom. Her friends rally around her quest to treat her mom for Christmas— an audacious ask she assumes only Santa can provide.
The young Who-pack huddle up regularly at their clubhouse, on bikes and sleds in the street, in a secret tower. Like many friendship groups of today’s film and series TV, their adventurous spirit is very circa 1980’s: inspiring kids to get off the phones, create some gadgets and cool hide-outs, and spend more time outside scheming in all the best ways! (Side note: this requires a bit more effort from parents, to let-go of control and to survive the boredom precipice before creativity rises up again in kids… but it’s worth it!)
The Who-crew reminds me of the original discipleship team that Jesus picked: young men ready to explore! Jesus calls them, then takes them camping, hiking, sailing and fishing-for-men—learning to adventure for God’s kingdom. Watching Cindy-Lou Who’s squad re-ignited that sense of adventure for me.
True to the classic story, the Grinch spends his days wallowing in his hatred of Christmas. However, in this 2018 film, we see in flashbacks his true reason for his lamenting: he has been alone all his life.
He wandered the halls of a dark orphanage, alone. As a young boy, he ventured out at Christmas, watching every other Who exchanging love and good cheer. But no Who noticed him; no Who offered him a hug or a song.
Now, he hides his sorrow behind sarcasm, and ignores his loneliness by applying his impressive creative-genius to his plot to steal Christmas.
Then he meets Cindy-Lou Who. And our green machine is deeply touched by her efforts of love for her mother. Later, his emotions are further compelled by the intentionality of the town to treasure time together, despite having been robbed of all the stuff of Christmas.
His heart swells—regenerates, if you will—and the Grinch returns the stolen Christmas items.
“Are you unaware of His rich kindness, forbearance, and patience, that it is God’s kindness that is leading you to repent?” Romans 2:4 ISV
Grinch retreats to his cave, alone and remorseful, choosing to do what’s right, assuming he will have to keep doing so alone.
Then Cindy Lu knocks on his door (*cue the tears!). She genuinely yet nonchalantly invites the Grinch to Christmas dinner. Like it’s no big deal that he just raided their homes, stole all their stuff, and violated their rights. The Grinch doesn’t get it, and neither do we. How can a community of people show warmth and welcome to the chief of sinners?
Because of Jesus has done that for us. We violated the rights of the Son of God, rejected him and stole his dignity through our rebellion that put Jesus on the cross. And yet, he invited us to his table, and paid for our debt that kept us away. Jesus extended his nail-pierced hand without prejudice against our own prejudice-ridden hearts.
Before accepting the grace of Christ, we were each a Grinch—orphaned and alone and annoyed by the “Whos” of Christ’s family.
Then someone extended love our way. Maybe it was an obnoxiously kind neighbor, or a somewhat in-your-face community. We don’t see the reason behind the good-will of Who-ville, but a few carols sprinkled throughout the film give us a hint. For the first film in a long time, I heard Jesus’ name in a way that was worshipful and appropriate:
“Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day!”
I believe the Whos’ song of choice came from their redeemed hearts, not just a random holiday selection. Sure, they sang it at the poor Grinch who was actively avoiding the church greeting committee, er, I mean the Who-carolers… but their hearts were in the right place. Citizens of Whoville and citizens of God’s kingdom alike may need to learn a little more tact, but there is beauty in the awkward loving of our neighbors too.
Perhaps our hearts were softened to faith in Christ the same way the Grinch’s was: viewing the mundane kindness of one Christian to another, or the way the community of Christ comes around each other in the good times and the hard times.
Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Romans 1215 ESV
When we practice these simple and unifying tenants of Christian community, we stand out beautifully and attractively (note: not bait and switch) to the world around us. But it takes BOTH warmth within our Church and hospitality to reach outside of it to grow the family of God.
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15
This Christmas, may we have beautiful Cindy-Lou Who feet that carry the Good-News of Christ’s invitation into the family. May we also have the kind of love for one another that demands a team-effort to express it.
That love won’t just transform the church, it will change the world. We Grinches-in-recovery can testify.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
Want to go deeper? Read Rosaria Butterfield’s book “The Gospel Comes with a House Key” to unpack the important and lost art of hospitality.
Aside from Benedict Cumberbatch’s clever quips, what did you think of The Grinch?