Robin Hood. My absolute favorite Disney movie of all time. Don't get me wrong - I'm not claiming its the best Disney movie of all time. But it is my favorite.
It's wacky and silly and makes me happy inside. There's great music, the townspeople are loving and sweet, the villains are stupid, greedy and get what's coming to them. There's romance based on knowing each other - not just love at first sight, and it's hilarious! I just love this movie. It's not a great movie, I understand why people don't love it as much as I do, but it's my movie and I will love it all the much!
So, what can this movie about anthropomorphic animals "borrowing" from the rich and giving to the poor teach us about living the Christian life?
Well, I think there's a lot to find in the song Oo-De-Lally that relates to an aspect of the Christian life a lot of us evangelicals could do well to embrace more: joy. (Side note, you better believe at some point I am going to do another write up on Not in Nottingham, and on Phony King of England - possibly one of the best songs to illustrate the cosmic dimensions of the Gospel). Go ahead a take a listen to the song, enjoy the Sheriff getting thwarted, and then come on back ready to think and connect.
Golly What A Day
The song starts sweet and innocently. Robin and John, bestest buddies, are just enjoying a walk in the forest. It's sweet, it's beautiful, it's life-giving. It harkens back to Eden - to God and Adam walking together in the garden in the cool of the day. Enjoying the wonder and glory of nature and companionship. This is beautiful. This is good. This is life the way it's meant to be. They are enjoying each other, they are laughing, reminiscing, and having such a good time. They are experiencing joy. Joy is a concept that is truly under-rated in modern evangelicalism. It's either reduced to simple happiness, utterly ignored, seen as something that induces guilt or over-spiritualized into a sense of faking happiness and ignoring pain. None of these are a biblical joy.
What is Joy?
The Greek word for joy is chara. It's a powerful word, a beautiful word. To see an amazing video discussing the complexities, intricacies, and power of chara, check out this video from the Bible Project. I love the biblical model of joy because it is not dependent on circumstances - that's happiness. Happiness is fleeting, it comes and goes based on what we are feeling or experiencing. Happiness isn't permanent, it's a temporary rush. But joy is something more. Joy is built on a fixed truth. Joy is built on something that can't be taken away, something that can't fade, something that can't end. Joy is based on grace. In fact, the Greek word for grace (charis) and the word for joy are cognates, showing that joy can even be rendered the awareness of grace. When we realize what we have, when we realize how vast, how powerful, how wonderful, like the video said, we can choose joy. The space-western Firefly had a theme song that was so deep and moving that I still find myself singing it at times as a call to joy. "Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand. I don't care, I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me." The sky is all it takes for the Firefly crew to find joy because as long as they are flying, they are living.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is enough that no matter what else happens, I have reason to sing, dance, and laugh in joy. The hardships of life are not ignored or repressed. They are just put in their proper perspective. Sorrow has its time and place. Things are hard and painful. But what we have is so much more than what we lack. Robin Hood and Little John are outlaws, living hand to mouth, and not even having a roof over their heads. The circumstances demand grumpy complaints. The circumstances demand anger and consternation. The circumstances demand them to ignore the fact that the sky is beautiful, the forest is a tapestry of creativity woven by God, that the sun is bright and life-giving, the water is sweet and refreshing and that these two best friends are together. If that isn't enough to shout out Oo-de-lally, then you are stuck in the trap of happiness, and can't find the freedom of joy.
Joy in Darkness
The Bible is a weird book. I'm the first to acknowledge that. A lot of what it says is counter-intuitive and sometimes just seems crazy. Rejoice when you face trials. Rejoice in sufferings. Rejoice when you suffer, even to the point of death. Life is hard and painful. It is full of darkness and sorrow. There is a real sense in which there are powers of darkness that seek to destroy us. There is a Sheriff and his posse out to get us. And there are times when we seem to be able to do nothing more than run and contemplate how to getaway. Times where it seems there is nothing more than just trying to survive the pain, the loss, the suffering, and the sorrow. And yet, somehow, while running for their lives, Robin and John experience life.
They are smiling and enjoying the journey. It could all end in a minute, but at least they know that the life they are living is one that is causing evil to come after them. Each one could lose the last thing they have: each other. And yet they keep going. And yet, Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally, golly what a day. Because here, while dealing with the pain and threat and challenge that comes from fighting the dark powers, there is joy. Joy in knowing they are doing what is right. Joy in the fact that there is a way of escape. Joy in knowing that they are still alive and together. What good there is outweighs the evil. They cling to the good. And that breeds joy.
The Christian life is hard. The world is dark and full of pain and suffering. But there is also so much light, so much life, so much joy, so much grace, and so much good. And the good far outweighs the bad. If you doubt that, then I challenge you to truly spend time contemplating the love of God for you. Read John, read Ephesians, read Philippians. See the beauty of love that God has poured out to you.
Also, you can't do this alone. Robin and John experience joy because they are doing life together. God has given us the Church so that we may experience the joy of life together.
When one of us gets tripped up, it falls to the rest of us to help him/her up. When one of us falls into despair, it falls to the rest of us to bring the light of life and love and healing. And when some of us turn our eyes away from Christ and the joy His Gospel brings, it falls to the rest of us not to cast our eyes down, but to lift up the head of our hurting friend. Reminiscing this and that and having such a good time. Oo-de-lally.
I'll leave you with this from the author of Hebrews: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.