Forgiveness is the greatest magic of all.
When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella's fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger, who turns out to be none other than the Prince. After being emotionally abused by her stepmother and stepsisters, Ella is still able to, with the help of her Fairy Godmother, once again see the Prince, leaving behind the iconic glass slipper. When the Prince searches high and low to find Ella, the girl of his dreams, Ella's stepmother locks her away, keeping the Prince from finding her. She forbids Ella from seeing the Prince, and tells her to “remember what you are.” Despite all her cruel stepmother's schemes and devices, Ella is still reunited with her beloved Prince. Will the slipper fit?
Forgiveness, Unconditional love, Bitterness, Injustice, Christ-like
The Prince slips the glass shoe onto Ella's foot. It's a perfect fit. Finally reunited, Ella and the Prince stand. Just as Ella and her Prince are about to share a kiss, Ella's cruel stepsisters burst in. Seeing her with the Prince, they are immediately remorseful and apologize to their “dear sister.” Ella is so happy and joyful that not even the memories of her stepsisters' cruelty can touch her now. She and the Prince stare, lost in one another's eyes. When they finally look over, Ella's step sister's curtsy before the Prince. Ella and the Prince turn back to one another. They smile. Everything is perfect. “Shall we?” the Prince asks, motioning towards the door. Ella nods. The two walk out, hand in hand. As they near the front door, Ella turns to see her stepmother. Everything goes quiet and tense as her stepmother stares on with anger and hatred. Despite her wicked plans to thwart Ella's happiness, Ella has still won. She has everything that her stepmother ever wanted, and she got it all by having courage, and being kind. Ella looks her stepmother in the eyes, and says, “I forgive you.” And with that, Ella turns and, with the Prince, walks out of her stepmother's life forever. Ella's stepmother, seething, drops to the steps, overcome with anger that, to the very end, Ella's kindness and love has conquered her envy, jealousy, and hate. But forgiven or not, the narrator explains, Ella's stepmother and her daughters would be sent out of the kingdom for their treason.
Forgiveness. It is not something that can be earned. It is not something that is deserved. It is something that can only be given, freely, as a gift. The entire film, Ella's stepmother and stepsisters have mocked, ridiculed, tormented, belittled, and abused Ella. Many times in the film, Ella is close to despair, for the words of her mother, “have courage and be kind,” do not seem to have helped her at all. The cruelty of her stepfamily seems to outweigh any amount of courage or kindness she may have, but, in the climax scene of the film, Ella has the choice to let all the hate and cruelty from her stepfamily poison her with bitterness that she'll carry into her new life, or to let their sins stay in the past, and give them the greatest thing that she ever could... her forgiveness. Despite everything that Ella's stepmother had done to her, without even being asked, Ella forgives her. This is very reminiscent of one of Christ's final acts before his death. He was beaten, tortured, scorned, mocked, and ridiculed by the soldiers, pharisees, and those who claimed to follow him. Despite everything that these people did to Christ, as he hung on the cross before them, without even being asked, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34). It is not easy to forgive those who have wronged us. The Apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who had sinned against him. Peter's suggested number was seven times, showing that, indeed, forgiveness is a hard thing, that cannot be easily given, but Jesus confronts him, telling him that seven times is not enough (Matthew 18:21-22). Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the unforgiving servant, and explains that our father in heaven has forgiven us much. Should we not also forgive others their small debts? (Matthew 18:32-33). Earlier in Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples in the Lord's prayer to forgive others, just as God has forgiven us (Matthew 6:12). Jesus even goes so far as to say, in Matthew 6:14-15 that if we do not forgive others, then our Father in heaven will not forgive us. This all goes back to acting like Christ. Again and again in the gospels, Jesus forgives those who have sinned against God, and so against him, without an apology, and without being asked (Luke 5:20-24, John 8:7-11). In our nation of equality and justice, unconditional love and forgiveness seem like foreign ideas. We love those who love us, and forgive those who deserve it, but as Jesus said, if we love those who love us, what credit is that to us (Luke 6:32)? We are to love like Christ. We are to forgive like Christ. Jesus does not require difficult things of us because he wants us to have a hard life. He requires difficult things of us because they are the best things for us. It is what makes us more like him. It is what makes the world a better place. When Ella turns to her stepmother and tells her, “I forgive you,” she gives up the right to punish her as treason deserves and lets her courage and kindness shine through. Forgiveness changed everything. Christ's forgiveness has changed the world. Let us go and forgive those who have sinned against us, just as our Father in heaven has forgiven us.