The Scarlet Pimpernel is a dashing adventure of secret identities, romance, and swashbuckling action. If you dig 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, petty life Percy leads in London is a far cry from the reality. He appears to be obsessed with the things of the world, but his true interest is in loftier things. He wears a façade and plays a part as a fop and a fool to conceal his real identity. The real Percy—heroic, courageous, kind —is nothing like the external shell of shallow conceit. It takes time and suffering for the real Percy to emerge, and for his wife to know him utterly. The man she wed is but a dim reflection of the man he is underneath.

We are all 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; then it falls away as He pushes us to abandon our fascination with pettiness and focus on eternity. The spiritual stages of our life are like Percy’s journey to revealing his true self—at times, we’re so deep in the charade 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. 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 )

God comprehends us utterly; He sees past what sin does to us, to our 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 wants to bring that true self to life. It’s a painful process, to learn to trust Him. Like Percy, we try to hide from God’s gaze, fearing we can’t trust Him with our secrets, but as He removes our masks and forces us to see our reflection, we step away from deceit into the light.

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.