[Editor’s Note: We want to thoughtfully explore what is worth discussing in movies and shows. Spiritual and gospel themes are often embedded in what we’re already watching. By talking about something, Power to Change – Students is not giving an official endorsement, nor are we giving a ranking or judgment of overall quality. We simply desire to join the conversations that people are already having about #movies+shows.]
A rag-tag sample of humanity, that’s what they are—the group dubbed as “the chosen” by the show of the same name. They include a woman who lapses into violent fits of rage, a young man with a head for numbers but lacking social skills, an idealistic architect, and many more. The show puts the foibles of humanity on display, and normally I would cringe at the obviously flawed attempts of these characters to find their place in the world. Why don’t I cringe? Is it because I see myself in their stories or is it something—someone—more?
Each of “the chosen” has their own story, displayed in the various episodes. In Season 1, Episode 1, we engage with the life story of Mary—dearly loved by her father, who instills her with a hope in God from an early age. After tragically losing her father and experiencing major trauma, she progressively loses hope and is overwhelmed by fits of anger … to say the least. In her life, I recognize how I can also “lose it” when dealing with a loss—though my losses (often of time and control) are trivial compared to hers.
Another character I resonate with is Matthew. Like me, he works well with data and numbers. Like me, he can be quite oblivious to the social impact of his words. I, too, can present evaluatory remarks while not recognizing their relational implications—until it’s too late. Although I’ve never joined Matthew in taking on the role of a collections agent, I easily slip into a mindset of evaluating people by their productivity.
I like to think my personal standards are high, as I tend towards perfectionism. So I also empathize with Nathaniel, an architect highlighted in another episode. His dream project results in disaster and he plunges into despair. I, too, have experienced deep disappointment with myself and others around me.
What brings these three individuals together? What do the out-of-control woman, the mechanistic collector, and the idealistic architect have in common? Each of them receives hope from the same person. That individual speaks to Mary by name, with words she remembers from her childhood, freeing her from rage. That same person invites Matthew out of self-inflicted isolation into authentic community. That man sees past Nathaniel’s failures into his heart for building something beautiful for God.
That man turns out to be Jesus—yes, Jesus Christ! Counter to so many film depictions of Jesus, The Chosen focuses on his followers, often leaving his involvement at the margins of each episode. I think this is a subtle commentary on the humility of Jesus, which is corroborated by how he’s depicted when he is actually on-screen. He has power and confidence but he is satisfied to wait for the right moment to act in power. In The Chosen we see Jesus first revealing himself as the Jewish Messiah in one-on-one encounters, in teaching children, and in small groups. Eventually, word spreads and the crowds grow, but Jesus’ concern is for each individual and their family, rippling outward into their communities.
The humility and concern of Jesus is contrasted with the flashes of pride and selfishness that we see among “the chosen.” For instance, Peter vies with James and John in trying to earn Jesus’ favour. How often have I let pride in my own ideas and work cause conflict with others? (Sometimes even when it was just within my own heart!)
In their competitive comparison, “the chosen” don’t see their similarities. Yet, at the end of one memorable episode, what ends up bringing them together is not their similarities but the way that Jesus models perfect service to them—which comes at considerable personal expense. In the same way, by remembering how Jesus serves others, I am drawn away from the imperfections I see in others (which I only look at to avoid seeing my own imperfections).
I don’t need to shudder at my incompetence, nor at the failings of others.
I am a ragged individual, patched and worn, among a collection of rag-tag individuals. That’s okay. I don’t need to shudder at my incompetence, nor at the failings of others. Why? Because Jesus loves me—loves us—regardless. He brings hope and healing. Just as in The Chosen, his followers now may not always see him among them, yet we can still let his presence ripple through our lives, as we remember his words and perfect sacrificial love. Or we can forget his love and fearfully judge our fellow Jesus-followers, cringing at their imperfections. Let us pray for the former, even while confessing to the latter. Will we remember we are chosen by God, or will we imagine that we can earn God’s favour, impressing him with our resumés?