Being in the Christmas spirit, yesterday I pondered It’s a Wonderful Life and whether George Bailey’s sacrifice was joyful or bitter.
Today, I ponder whether George’s end-of-the-movie transformation was temporary or lasting.
Temporary or Lasting Transformation
You know the story and the scene.
The angel Clarence shows George how his life impacted many. Despondent George decides to stick around.
He returns home joyfully looking for his family. Soon he finds that his wife has asked all his friends to come through for him.
Standing in front of the family Christmas tree, money pours in to replace the money stolen by old Mr. Potter. George is joyful.
Or, is he? Is he simply happy?
Is he a changed man? Or is he a man changed by circumstances?
I’ve often wondered (and even thought about trying to write it!) what It’s a Wonderful Life, The Sequel might be like.
Would George be able to sustain his new-found excitement about life?
I don’t want to be a Scrooge at Christmas, but I don’t believe George’s “change” would have been sustainable.
Yes, George did likely have an emotional change. And that’s not bad.
And, yes, George likely even had some thought-life change—a new perspective. And that’s not bad.
But did George have a heart change? And, was his heart changed by God—transformed, renewed, regenerated?
Not to get too theological here (well, why not?), but…
- Changing our external circumstances is not enough for lasting internal change.
- Changing our emotions is not enough for lasting internal change.
- Changing our mental perspective is not enough for lasting internal change.
Secular rational-emotive therapy can offer those sorts of short-term fixes.
In the sequel, I suspect (I’m writing it, so I can suspect whatever I want!) that George’s change would have been short-lived.
Happy for a while, but what happens the next time or the tenth time that Uncle Billy messes up? Can George, in his own power, continue to “manage his moods”?
Or, what happens the next time or the tenth time that George sacrifices for others and they don’t reciprocate? Can George, in his own power, continue to maintain a new perspective on life?
George (and Me and You) Need a Transformation
Here comes some more theology.
George needs mind renewal flowing from regeneration—he needs to become a new person in Christ. By grace through faith, George needs to be born again, born from above.
His old ways of relating, thinking, choosing, doing, and feeling need to be crucified with Christ.
George needs a new, God-given, Spirit-engrafted, Christ-empowered nature. A new way of Christ-like relating, thinking, choosing, doing, and feeling needs to be resurrected with Christ.
That’s the only hope for lasting transformation and true joy.
Let me say it plainly. For George to truly change, George truly needs to be saved. By God. In Christ.
He can’t simply be “saved” by circumstances. Or new feelings. Or a new way of looking at life.
A Changed and Changing George
Saved by grace through faith, then George can begin the process of growth in grace—sanctification.
In the sequel (my sequel), George would seem to be “different” at first. But, little by little, the old George would seep out, come to the surface.
In despair, he would cry out to God again. But this time not simply to save him from his circumstances.
George would cry out that God would save him from His sins, including his self-centered motivations for sacrificing. And, most importantly, from his sin of unbelief and rejecting God in Christ and living on his own power for his own kingdom.
George would acknowledge that he was just as much in need of salvation as Mr. Potter!
And, saved and changed, George would need to cling to Christ to keep changing…to keep growing.
The movie would not “get boring” now with George never struggling again.
Not at all. The movie would “get exciting” now with George, like the Apostle Paul, saying:
“To this end [living for others for God’s glory] I labor, struggling with all his [Christ] energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:29).
But I don’t want to spoil the whole sequel!
I think you get the picture about how the picture would go and flow.
George would be a truly transformed, new man in Christ. And, like the rest of us changed by Christ, on a daily (moment by moment) basis, George would by faith through grace need to put off the old man and put on the new man in Christ.
That’s a movie I’d like to see.
That’s a life that is truly wonderful.
Join the Conversation
How would you write the sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life?
What sequel is Christ writing in your life since he saved you?