Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Watching the 1950 version of Cinderella I am struck by what I assume is the most important question of the film - is it more amazing that Cinderella has a dress made exclusively by mice and birds or that a fairy godmother shows up to help her out? I am inclined to think the former, however, as a child my heart and imagination were captured by the later. There is no doubt that the magic of Cinderella lies in its story of transformation. It illuminates a desire that each of us feel, the hope that we too could suddenly be changed.
Cinderella, of course, only experiences an external transformation and the story wants us to see that the change actually reveals more about who she truly is. That is, the ball gown, the princess style carriage, the mice that are turned into horses and the horses who are turned into people (which incidentally raises a real question of why not just turn the mice into humans and leave the horses as is?), that all these external trappings reveal her inner beauty and inherent “princess” like qualities. The 2015 live action version of the film explores this in more detail with Ella (Lily James) declaring to the Prince that she can only marry him if he sees her as she truly is; not as a princess but rather the serving girl with a kind heart.
For those of us who have been transformed by Christ, we know that our change is not external, the experience of conversion does not come with ball gowns (fortuitous for those of us who resent all events that require evening wear). It is more significantly, our hearts and our lives that are transformed in line with the promise of 2 Corinthians 5, “if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” And yet, there is something similar about the Cinderella’s transformation and our own experience; that is that we are transformed to be more truly who we are. For we are people who were created for perfect relationships with God, with each other, with ourselves and with the world. These perfect relationships are what God designed us for and in these we find fulfillment and are able to flourish. The reality of sin, both in our own lives and the sin soaked world we live in, marrs and destroys these relationships leaving us in need of change and unable to achieve it. And yet, in our own transformation moment, as we confess the sin and ask for forgiveness our relationship to God is restored, allowing us to fully live into the identities we were created for. Our transformation in Christ is a transformation to our most true selves, bestowing on us lives and identities that we, in our own striving, could never achieve.
The Cinderella story is actually incredibly old, early versions of it are found in Ancient Greece, which illustrates something of the resonant and transcendental human desire for transformation. There are voluminous numbers of adaptations of the story both in film and in print, including my favourites, Drew Barrymore as the sassy Danielle de Barbarac in the late 90s Ever After and Hillary Duff in A Cinderella Story (2004). It doesn’t seem to depend on the time period or the medium, we love a story about the underdog who is seen for who she truly is with the help of some magic and some friends, whether they be animal or human.
I too desire this possibility of transformation, particularly as I feel myself slipping so easily into sin. I am disappointed in myself when I see its effects in my own life and how it complicates my relationships with others and the God who I seek to follow. And yet again, I am drawn back to 2 Corinthians 5, with its promise that in Christ I am a new creation, that the old is truly gone. Unlike Cinderella, whose transformation is just for one night, and doesn’t even last to the end of the ball, I have an eternal transformation. As we read further into the chapter, the source of this lasting transformation is revealed, that Jesus who had no sin became sin for us that in him we might become the righteousness of God. We have access to the promise that Jesus’ death is the means of our lasting transformation - not just for eternity but also for the here and now. That because of Jesus we can have confidence in a perfect relationship with God and we continue in the Christian life being transformed ever more into God’s likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). This can be a slow and painful process, but it is a possible process of transformation and it is a lasting transformation, one that we know we can undertake because we have the Spirit of God.
The feminist in me resents that I grew up on films like the 1950s version of Cinderella, because of its messages that transformation is always with the intent to secure the man. Which makes me thankful for my transformation in Christ is for a much better and greater reason, that God has given us a real purpose in transformation (as well as an eternal hope). 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 explains that we are transformed to be Christ’s ambassadors and have been given a ministry of reconciliation. We are commissioned to bring other people to know the possibility of transformation in Christ and to do the good work of justice to restore people to each other and people to themselves. God has transformed us for a reason, to do his good works in the world.
Disney’s Cinderella promises us that the dreams that we wish come true. It is a nice idea, but merely hoping that we will be transformed into better people is ultimately futile. The transformation Christ offers is possible, lasting, real, and gives purpose to our lives. For when we are in Christ the new creation has come.
Fiona is a follower of Jesus by identity and by trade a teacher of Science. She studied at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.