My grandchildren are involved in a musical theatre and dance class and are learning songs from ‘Matilda the Musical’ as part of this. ‘Matilda the Muscal’ is a show based on the Roald Dahl story of a little girl who overcomes the constraints of a vicious headteacher to flourish and grow. There’s a strong emphasis in the show on Matilda’s resourcefulness and intelligence and on the need to challenge injustice:

‘Even if you’re little, you can do a lot,/ You mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you’ goes one song (‘Naughty’). The song rails against what it perceives as fatalism in stories (citing the nursery rhyme ‘Jack and Jill’, the tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and the fairytale ‘Cinderella’) as examples of this attitude which is deplorable. The song urges resistance: ‘Just because you find that life’s no fair/ It doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it/ If you always take it on the chin and wear it/ Nothing will change.’

I understand the tenor of the song and there is indeed a place for defiance and a refusal to accept injustice. Much change over the centuries has come as people, including Christians, have spoken out and campaigned against evil; the motivation for social justice and change has often come from Christians who know God’s ways over the world’s ways. But I still find elements of the song disquieting, particularly the line ‘Nobody else is gonna put it right for me/ Nobody but me is going to change my story!’

This is where I part company with the song, where I cannot agree with the lyrics. Because the Gospel story tells us that this is a lie. Only God can ultimately change our story. Moses had to speak up for justice to Pharaoh, but it was God who struck Egypt with plagues and parted the Red Sea to allow His people to move into freedom. Only God could save us from our sin by stepping into our world and changing us and the world through His Son, Jesus.

Resistance and a passion for justice are definitely part of the Gospel message. But the notion that it’s all down to us, that we are the only ones who can change our story, is not true. Christianity is the story of God changing our story and doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Self-help won’t get us to heaven. Only Jesus can do that for us.