CHICAGO — Each time my young son and I walk into a movie theater, I give him a friendly reminder: Let's look for a few lessons in the film we can learn. Most of the time after the credits roll, he's great at rattling off a few ideas, but after we watched The Secret Life of Pets, he was stumped.
"What can we learn from that one?" I asked.
"Umm, I'm not sure," he responded.
Perhaps that's because he and I spent more time laughing at the movie than analyzing it. But upon reflection, there actually are several significant lessons in The Secret Life of Pets that all of us can teach our kids.
Here are three:
1. When you fight, you lose.
That's true in the human world and in the dog world — and I'm not even referencing fisticuffs.
Max and Duke were divided from the start: Max was jealous that his owner brought home a new dog (Duke), and he responded by blackmailing him. Duke retaliated, and the two ended up in an animal control truck.
Such situations seem to happen in my home frequently, although my two sons have (yet) to get in that much trouble.
Here's a question to ask your child: How should Max have handled the situation differently? And what would have changed if he had been nicer? And here's a Bible verse to cap the conversation: "Repay no one evil for evil …" (Romans 12:17).
2. When you fight, you should forgive.
Certainly, it would be great to avoid all divisions and disagreements, but that's just not reality in our sin-filled world. The real question is: How do you react when a friend, neighbor or even "enemy" does something to harm you?
Max and Duke hated one another, but it wasn't long before they were forced to work together — and forgive each other. By the end of the movie, they were best friends. OK, perhaps the word "forgive" was never mentioned, but everyone in the theater knew what had happened. We could learn from it.
Try this Bible verse: "Strive for peace with everyone …" (Hebrews 12:14).
3. Sometimes, bad people turn good.
Snowball was a violent, despicable little rabbit and street animal, celebrating the death of a pet owner (or so he thought) and wanting Max killed. In fact, he despised "domesticated" animals. Yet by the end of the film he was partnering with Max — who was domesticated — and in the movie's closing scenes, he himself was becoming a domesticated pet … and loving it.
Not every film ends with the bad guy turning good — and it's not a stretch to turn this lesson into a biblical discussion about grace, perhaps even tossing in a mention of the once-bad guy known as the Apostle Paul.
There are dozens of verses that can accompany this topic, but Acts 22:1-17, where Paul details his dramatic version, seems like a good start.