As a parent, I have had to sit through countless children and young adult movies. Some I tolerate, some I wish to never see again, and some haunt me, in a good way, for years. One such movie is Because of Winn Dixie.
What has haunted me is the beautiful picture of God’s available blessing expressed in the film. In the film, a diverse and disparate group of people are brought together because of the precocious friendliness of a mangy dog and the available love of a little girl. There is a blind recovering alcoholic, an antiquated and lonely spinster, a convicted felon, a grumpy dog hater, and a preacher who has lost his wife. All of these people have been written off by society and judged to be beyond true blessing. They, in the world’s eyes and even in their own eyes, have some fundamental flaw, that makes them unworthy and hopeless.
The best way of looking at the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is to not see them as prescriptions to blessing but as proof that blessing is for everyone, even the meek, even the grieving, even the spiritual flunkies, even the ones who are missing righteousness. Dallas Willard describes it this way:
The Beatitudes…They serve to clarify Jesus’ fundamental message: the free availability of God’s rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself, the person now loose in the world among us. They do this simply by taking those who, from the human point of view, are regarded as most hopeless, most beyond all possibility of God’s blessing or even interest, and exhibiting them as enjoying God’s touch and abundant provision from the heavens.
At the end of Because of Winn Dixie, all of these forgotten and despised members of society are brought together for a party. These scenes are my favorite from the film as these people who have had such burdens and faced such condescension and judgement are renewed through the power of friendship and love and community. They found blessing in the love of others and the breakdown of assumptions and false narratives. And like the ragamuffin guests at the banquet in one of Jesus’ parables, they are free to taste goodness and true blessing.
There are some things in my life that I often feel make me unworthy of blessing from God. Maybe there are some things in your life as well but the truth is that no “human condition excludes blessedness, that God may come to any person with his care and deliverance.” Jesus welcomes all to his kingdom. Even you. That is the gospel of the Beatitudes and the Gospel of Because of Winn Dixie.