Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quelling Quarrels

Yesterday afternoon I arrived home to find my son plopped on the couch enjoying an episode of one of Marvel's latest animated series, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. In this episode, Hulk and his argumentative ally, Red Hulk (aka General Ross), are merged into a two headed behemoth thanks to the reality-warping powers of the Impossible Man. As if this isn't bad enough, the power-sucking pterodactyl, Sauron, saps the Impossible Man's powers and unleashes destructive havoc on the Hulk's hometown, Vista Verde, with the help of the psychically-controlled Fin Fang Foom. Despite being melded down the middle the twin titans overcome their differences and manage to smash the two reptilian rogues! In the end, both Hulks admit, "I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on what makes a hero, but I can tell you one thing we'll always agree on... SMASH!"

The whole episode underscores the value of teamwork and learning to get along despite our differences. It's a common theme in superhero cartoons. It's also a common theme in Scripture. The Bible instructs, "Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful" (2 Timothy 2:23-24 NIV). Unfortunately, we Christians aren't always so good at keeping this command. We often debate, dispute, and even divide over trivial matters. An old rhyme that puts it this way:

What joy to love the saints above
When I get home to glory.
To love below, the saints I know,
Well, that’s another story!

The Apostle Paul felt that putting aside our differences and working together was so important, that he publicly called out two women from the church in Philippi. Here's what he says: "Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life" (Philippians 4:2-3 NLT). Paul's advice to these two Christian women is to set aside their egos and settle their disagreement with the help of a mature, impartial friend. Disagreements and disputes are going to happen, that’s just part of being individuals; it’s how we handle them that matters.

When Christians fight amongst themselves, nobody wins. Instead, let’s heed Peter’s advice: “And now this word to all of you: You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds” (1 Peter 3:8 TLB). When Christians learn to put aside our differences and work together toward a common good, the only one getting smashed will be Satan!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Losers, Long-Shots, and Little Guys

In my last post I was a little critical of the Guardians of the Galaxy, calling them thieves, murders, and generally self-centered—and rightfully so. These heroes don’t wear halos. Peter Quill—who insists on being called Star Lord—is portrayed as a self-aggrandizing womanizer. Rocket Raccon is an amoral bounty hunter out to make a quick buck. Gamora is willing to lie, steal and cheat to escape her tyrant father, Thanos. Drax is driven only by his thirst for revenge. The verbally-impaired Groot is likely the most valiant of the bunch. In a pivotal moment in the movie, Star Lord assesses his team, saying, "When I look around, you know what I see? Losers.” Yet, strange as it may seem, it is this very quality that makes the Guardians so refreshing and appealing. They have flaws of biblical proportion, but so do we. Your past and mine is filled with faults, fumbles, and failures. But here’s the good news—God loves the losers, the long-shots, and the little guys.

The Bible is full of losers. Story after story is marked by scandal, stumble, and scheming. Noah drank 'til he passed out. Abraham lied about his marriage and slept with the maid. Sarah laughed at God’s promises. Jacob was a con-man. Leah was ugly. Moses was a murderer. Miriam was a gossip. David failed as a father. Jeremiah wrestled with depression. Martha worried. Peter denied. Thomas doubted. The list goes on and on. Each one of them had flaws of biblical proportion. Yet, just as the Guardians managed to save the entire galaxy, God used these imperfect people to accomplish his incredible will.

Max Lucado writes, "If God chose only righteous people to change the world, you could count them all on one finger—Jesus! Instead he included others in his plan—sinners, the ungodly, the imperfect. God used and uses people to change the world. People! Crooks, creeps, lovers, and liars—he uses them all!”

If you ever wonder how God can use you to make a difference in your world, just look at those he has already used, and take heart.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Holy Heroes, Batman!

I’m in the process of completing an exciting costuming project. For several years, I’ve coveted a quality replica of the Batman costume worn by Adam West in the 1966 television series.  After tracking down patterns made from the screen-worn costumes, several shopping trips to locate matching fabrics, and finally finding an affordable cowl, my Batman costume is complete! Not only that, but my son is equally excited about being the Boy Wonder (though he was a little hesitant about the bare legs). My wife and daughters will soon be clad in Catwoman, Batgirl and Riddler costumes, too.

I remember watching the 1966 Batman series at ten years old and thinking, “I’m too old for this.” Now, at thirty-four, I can’t get enough. This colorful, campy version of the Caped Crusader is perhaps my favorite incarnation. It hearkens back to a time of moral certainty. While various villains continually plotted their nefarious schemes, Batman and Robin were “good guys” by every definition, duly deputized officers of the law who obeyed traffic signals and helped little old ladies cross the street.

When I compare these classic do-gooders to many modern superheroes I’m often disappointed. Take Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy for instance. I enjoyed the movie as much as everyone else, especially the sound track. However, the Guardians lack the moral integrity I long for in a hero. They are thieves, murderers, and generally self-severing. Although, they ended up stopping the big bad guy and saving the universe, their moral ambiguity is highlighted by Starlord’s question, “What should we do next: Something good, something bad? Bit of both?”

I’m reminded of the Bible verse that says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil…” (Isaiah 5:20). I think this is why I’m more drawn to “good guys” that are truly good—superheroes like Superman, Captain America, and, of course, the Caped Crusaders—Batman and Robin. Besides, who wouldn’t like a guy that can hit you so hard words describing the impact will appear out of thin air?