I have recently started watching the Apple TV+ original show, Ted Lasso, starring Jason Seduikis. It tells the story of a young college football coach from Kansas who is hired to coach a English Premiere League football club with no experience, and practically no knowledge of the game.
While the plot of the show revolves around the Richmond Football Club, the story concerns the impact of Ted – endlessly optimistic, kind, thoughtful and generous – on those around him. It is not a story of a protagonist changing, but of a protagonist changing those around them. Here is a great video that describes the nuances and specifics of this sort of story – called the “flat arc.” In that video, the narrator says:
“One of the reasons we enjoy stories, is that they reassure us that we can change. But movies with flat arcs assure us of something else: that we can change the world around us without sacrificing our beliefs. These are stories about good people. Inspirational heroes that spend their lives spreading a positive message in the hopes of radically transforming the people around them and the world at large, for the better.”
Reading that paragraph, and watching this show, I am constantly reminded of the character of Jesus. The story of Jesus’ life is a flat arc. Jesus’ character does not change, he does not go through a transformation of belief or understanding. There is a not a lie about himself he believes at the beginning of his story that, by the end, he has learned to dismiss. He is constant. And the story of his life is one of changing those around him, and the sacrifices he makes to do so. It is a change of circumstances, not a change of character.
Ted Lasso is an excellent embodiment of how we can live like Jesus in a modern world. Ted is a force for good. And sure, I’ve always wanted to be a good person, and wanted to be a positive force in the lives of those around me, and wanted to treat others and treat life as Jesus did. But reading an ancient text – or even watching a show or movie that depicts the life of Jesus – does not put a crystal clear image of how I can be that Christ-like ‘force for good’ in a modern world.
Ted Lasso shows me how I can immediately change my attitudes, actions and words in today’s context, to match the spirit of Jesus. And it does it through a beautifully written, funny, sometimes raunchy piece of television.