The wisdom of Forrest Gump

“Hello, my name is Forrest, Forrest Gump.”

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”

“Run, Forrest! Run!”

“Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots.”

Even though the movie Forrest Gump is 20 years old, it is still an iconic part of American culture. We can quote our favorite lines and laugh about our favorite scenes. Last Friday night, I went to a friend’s birthday party where the celebration included a showing of the movie. I went eagerly, looking forward to seeing it again. I expected to be entertained; what I didn’t expect is what happened as I watched it.

This time I was drawn to something beyond the witticisms and the magical moments. I was drawn to Forrest himself. There was something about his simple-mindedness that seemed so perceptive, something about his naiveté that seemed so virtuous. Here was a man for whom money meant nothing, yet he finds himself wealthy beyond compare. Here was a man for whom fame had no pull, yet he finds himself meeting three presidents. But the secret of Forrest Gump lies in a single line tucked away in the movie:

I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.

It is in his persevering and protecting love for Jenny that we approach the magic of Forrest Gump. He is not drawn to the ways of the world, to popularity or looks or reputation. His only draw is love, a love that refuses to give up, that sees behind the mask into the heart, a love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (I Cor. 13:7).

It reminded me of other works of literature that hold the same theme, where the child teaches the truth, where the simple point the way. And that took me one step deeper:

We love Forrest Gump because he was just a little like Jesus.

For Jesus loved everyone this way, loved them so deeply that it was the death of him. He didn’t care about fame or reputation or money, and in his simple and direct teaching, the wise of this world still listen in awe. And here is the final surprise:

 He wants to make us into men and women that are a little like himself, that reflect his radiance and exhibit his love. That’s the whole reason he came.

That’s the secret of Christianity.



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