When Superheroes Fight

            My deep and fiercely nerdy love of much of sci-fi is thanks to my Dad. 

As a kid I can remember fighting with him over which Saturday morning cartoons we were going to watch: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (him) or The Tick (me).  We had one TV-the horror!  Somehow Star Trek in some form or generation or another was always on it.  Oh, the anticipation of pulling out the knob, turning the dial, or pushing actual buttons if you were fancy and watching the screen warm up. Your arm hairs stood up from the static of standing too close in case you had to whack the back of it to get the channel.  We had two TV's if you count the tiny one that Dad had in his shop where he would hide sometimes and watch Star Trek in PEACE, under the guise of "fixing somethingorother".  My Dad accidentally taped WWF wrestling (which totally qualifies as sci-fi to me) over my high school talent show.  The world will never know my fantastic rendition of En Vogue because Macho Man Randy Savage is now snapping someone into a Slim Jim over the top of it.  When a new superhero movie came out, he always wanted to go to it together and would pout if we saw it without him.  He pointed Stan Lee out in every Marvel movie.  He would understand the plot twist at the end because he had read it in his comic books as a kid-because as we all know, my Dad was awesome.  

            Slowly over time, I fell for the magical land of geekdom and all it's delightful glory.  The epic battle for right vs. wrong, good vs. evil was comforting to my justice girl heart.  There were clear lines in the enchanted sand.  Elves vs. Orks, Captain America fighting Nazis, Captain Kirk against the Tribbles, whatever.   It was all so clean and tidy and somehow against all odds, the good guy on the white horse, with the red cape and the sword of destiny would vanquish the big bad and fix the world and if it didn't work the first time, they could always go back in time in a blue box and fix it...again.  Oh, there was some nuance to keep it interesting-sometimes vampires have souls and fight for good and sometimes the big bad was your best friend in high school but the lines were still very clear. 

            And then it all went wrong. 

            Batman decided to take Superman down a peg and Captain America didn't like a decision Stark made and Dawn of Justice and Civil War wrecked everything.  What.Is.Happening? What kind of dumpster fire is this where superheroes fight EACHOTHER?  Nope. Did they forget the fate of the world is in their hands?  Come on, guys!  Get it together!

            There is a scene in the new Infinity War movie where Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are catching up over a battle for the city and  Banner wants Stark to call Captain America for help.  Stark is trying to explain why he won't call him:

            Stark: "It’s not that easy. The Avengers broke up. We’re toast."
            Banner: "Broke up, like a band? Like the Beatles?  Tony, listen to me, Thor is gone. Thanos is coming, it doesn’t matter who you’re talking to or not."

      

            They have really been on one side all along.  Right?  It's just that sometimes the battle for good is...nuanced...greyish...complicated. 

            And for some reason this made me think of the beautiful church.

            Sometimes we mistake small hills for great battlefields and somehow we end up fighting each other, even though we are really on the same side with Jesus.  Somehow unity seems like an option... as long as everyone agrees with our opinions. 

            It really doesn't matter if we don't like the name change, or the new carpet color, or how loud/quiet the music is.  It doesn't matter if we don't agree with someone's exegesis of pre-trib vs post-trib or that they did not vote for our presidential candidate or that not enough/too many hymns are sung for our liking, or that someone is from a completely different denomination, that they didn't have kids or that they have "too many kids" or that they do or do not drink wine, or they do or do not raise their hands, that they only listen to Hillsong or gangster wrap...it really. doesn't. matter. 

            Because we are on the same team and the world is at stake.  Because it is a huge dumpster fire when the church fights itself.  Because Jesus loves every single person who's opinion makes us angry, just like he loves all of our friends that agree with us.  Because sometimes the plank in our eye is bigger than the issue we "think" our brother is having but we just can't see it because...plank, so humility in our opinions is a good thing.   Because if we can figure this unity and love thing out we are so much stronger together than we are apart on our own little islands of rightness. Because we are all little bunnies doing our best to follow Jesus and some days our best is better or worse, but we all are trying.

            It is a beautiful thing when we are truly generous of our estimation of each other.    Generosity of spirit is not just giving away money and possessions but also giving kindness and understanding sacrificially as well.  When we are generous with our love for others we help them become their best selves.  Courage happens in community.

God didn't ask us to be his lawyers, he asked us to be people who loved Him and loved their neighbor.   I don't know many people who were won over by a cleverly worded attack on Facebook.  Love for our neighbors speaks volumes in a world full of people shouting at each other over nonsense.  It shines light into darkness and breathes hope into chaos.  Oh, don't we want more of that?  Hope, light, love.

            I believe the opposite of unity is offense.  It's not disagreement because it's totally cool to disagree.  Wow, did God make us all so different! I disagree with my "most favoritest" people on this earth, but it's fine because we have a mutual love for each other that creates trust in disagreement.  It is when disagreement turns into something more that it turns into poison.  It takes lots of  courage to attempt to love someone well that thinks differently than us. When it really comes down to it, even if it's hard, I have been grateful for an opportunity to really hear someone out because it means they care enough to try to explain their hearts.

            Unity is not uniformity.  It is not squeezing someone into my image so I can be more comfortable with them. In fact, unity among diverse, complicated, broken people is a miraculous gift from our great God and it has power and a platform if we can humble ourselves to participate in it.  It speaks volumes to a world that gets the popcorn out for every fight on social media.  It is not surprising when another church falls or picks a fight but it is very strange indeed when a church becomes a united movement of God because we get this love thing right. 

In a world that hadn't even experienced a Facebook fracas yet, Paul said, "Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life..." (Phil 2:14-16a).  Have you ever just stood under the vastness of a clear night sky and really looked at the stars?  Jon and I drove home from the Grand Canyon at night once and that chunk of Arizona has a zero light pollution law so there are no artificial lights on anywhere at night.  The sky was dazzling and vast and every star was so different but they all made this symphony of pinpoints of light.  One bright star is not a big deal, but all of them together-There is a breathless weight to that kind of beauty.  Can you imagine if that was how the world looked at the church?

            Unity in a church setting is a large topic because I think God gives each of us a different piece of the puzzle.  For me unity means humbling myself to actively listen to understand viewpoints that are challenging for me.  It means looking for the best in people and championing that.  It means actively working towards community. It means only talking about others in ways that lift them up.  It means looking for ways to provide solutions to problems instead of just complaints about them.  It means creating margins in life to spend real genuine time with people that God entrusts to my life.  The ways that I work towards unity may look totally different than what you are called to but what it really means in it's purest form is standing in agreement as a people group with God in his mission-no matter what.    

            I mean, if superheroes can't get along, let's be real, Christians don't have a chance. 

But we have something much better than a chance, we have Jesus and the world is at stake.

 

            What does unity look like for you? 

 

 

                       

 

           

 

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