The Scarlet Pimpernel is a dashing adventure of secret identities, romance, and swashbuckling action. It is at once a comedy and a tragedy, the tale of an aristocrat risking his life to save lives during the French Revolution. And if you care to dig a little deeper, and wear a theologian’s hat (on this occasion, plumed, as any self-respecting hat should be), the discerning Christian viewer can find subtle things to inspire us in our faith.
The flamboyant and petty life Percy leads in London is a far cry from his true personality. He appears to be obsessed with the things of the world, when in reality his interest is in loftier things. He wears a façade and plays a part as a fop and a fool, to conceal his true identity. The real Percy – heroic, courageous, and kind – is nothing like the external shell of shallowness and conceit. It takes time and suffering for the true Percy to emerge, and for his wife to know him utterly. The Percy she married is but a dim reflection of the man he is underneath.
We are all actors in a strange charade, mere reflections of our true selves –perfect, sinless, immortal beings not preoccupied with worldly things but focused on loftier things. Our façade is real until Christ enters our life, and then it falls away as He pushes us to abandon our fascination with petty things and focus on eternity. The spiritual stages of our life are much like Percy’s journey toward revealing his true self – at times, we are deep in the charade, so much so that we believe it ourselves; but as our faith matures, cracks appear in our farce and glimpses of our future selves emerge, momentary flickers for others to catch sight of, as Marguerite does with Percy (“Are you an actor too, playing a part in some strange charade?”).
The apostle Paul sums up our charade thus: “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message Translation)
God comprehends us utterly; He sees past what sin does to us, to our true immortal soul, to the person we would be in a sinless state. He sees us not only as we are but as He intends us to be in eternity. He looks past our external behavior into our heart, and just as Marguerite digs away at her husband’s façade, He wants to bring that true self to life. It is a painful process, to learn to trust Him. Like Percy, we try to hide ourselves away from God’s discerning gaze, fearing we can’t trust Him with our secrets, but inevitably, as He removes our masks and forces us to see our true reflection, we step away from deceit into the light.
Both the process of stripping away his illusions and maintaining them cause Percy no amount of emotional strain; yet, in both, he remains strong. Percy endures public scorn to save lives. He believes his cause is greater than the individual (and himself) and is willing to endure mockery and even death to preserve it. Our purpose is no different from his, to save lives. He saves them physically, while we point them toward spiritual salvation. The world is not kind to either of us and calls us all fools, but we can remain strong in the knowledge that we endure for a cause greater than ourselves.
This is part of the Anthony Andrews Blog Hop.