by Marty Troyer
Voldemort. Darth Vadar. Freddie Krueger. Aliens. The Joker. And the new and never better Doc Ock. Villains that break into our worlds via story, movie, and legend. They kill. They terrorize, they steal and they maim. They bring our deepest fears to life, if from a safe distance for us to enjoy. The human race has always been thrilled by villains, and loves to create enemies. I for one will never forget as an impressionable 2nd grader my first encounter with the Creature from the Black Lagoon! Because, as M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable so richly pointed out -there are no hero’s without a villain.
I have a villain in my life. An enemy out to get me, and not for the first time! Rebellion. Traitor. Blasphemer. Law-breaker. Heretic. Demon-man. Rogue. These are the names my villain has been called. And I’m scared to death of him! I’ve got nothing short of everything to loose to my enemy should he desire to take it.
And in a wicked twist of irony, he just so happens to be my hero too. Jesus is his name, and like the hounds of heaven, he won’t back off.
A recent story of my destruction help’s to make sense. I was foolishly meditating my way through the Sermon on the Mount one section at a time. My intent was to hold the gospel in one hand, my life in the other, and judge/adjust accordingly. READER BE WARNED: Do not, under any circumstances, try this @ home by yourself. You need professional help to pull this off with your life intact! I sailed along nicely for a week or so, performing casual touch up jobs to the facade I called my life. Then he wiggled the brick called Matt 7 and the whole thing fell flat:
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”
I felt like the wicked witch of the west melting under the watery strain of Jesus’ tears. Jesus came at me like a hungry warg, tearing at my bitter heart, relentless, and refusing to stop! It hurt – every minute of it. I hated the gospel mirror I’d stuck myself in front of and the truth it reflected. You must deny yourself, pick up your cross daily, and follow me. Not this kid! No way, I refused to die. It was March 23, a day so harsh for soul my resistance sent me spinning, spinning for months on end in the land of shadow. I slammed the book shut and didn’t come back. My journal -done. Bible reading -not possible. Meditating through the Sermon on the Mount? Hah! Never again. The only hope I had of winning was closing my ears and hoping he’d go away. He didn’t. My bitterness, selfishness, conceit, and hatred remained unacceptable to my hero/villain. So there, after months of stress in the wilderness, he vanquished me!
Oh sweet surrender! Oh how glorious the feeling of opening up that stinking pit of a room to God and allowing him to sweep it clean. Oh praise to the maker of healing and change! Savior! Redeemer! Lord! And Friend! And what a concrete example that, “An act of commitment does not change our reality… we are overwhelmed by the negative inertia of our unevangelized zones…there is much within us that is resistant to God’s love (Michael Casey).”
Part of my maturation has been a deepening understanding that there is indeed much within me that resists God and the Kingdom. “Repent!” he won’t stop calling, “and order your life according to the kingdom of God!” I’d love to Jesus, but I didn’t realize that was part of the package. I had no idea believing in Jesus meant also believing him! Safety, power, popularity, my past, my future, free time, a second car, consumerism, saving money, fitting in, capitalism, competition, becoming the best – none are immune to Jesus attack, or his love.
Some battles he wins. I usually get excited and describe these moments with words like: new creation, being born again, conversion, filled with the Spirit, recommitting, etc… But there are still times when I win. On the outside we call these: life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. But really they are death, sin, and selfishness.
Whether Jesus be a hero or a villain depends on where we’re at in life. Oddly, he often comes as both. It’s just a bit harder to see the villain with all the happy-talking vegetables and the flannel graph lying around. I mean think about it, for every Zachaeus in the New Testament there’s a story of a Sadduccee so scared of Jesus he spends his nights praying to God for ways to kill him! There are many, many folks who simply were so tired of Jesus pestering them they finally killed him instead. And it was simple stuff he was teaching! Don’t throw stones. Don’t call people names. Eat with the losers. Sell your stuff. Don’t sell your stuff in church. God is good. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was the kind of stuff that fired people up! It just so happens that’s the same kind of stuff that fires me up too. And because he loves me like crazy, he won’t let me get away without experiencing change. I’m all right with that. More than all right! I welcome it. So bring it on Jesus, hit me with all the love you’ve got!
And let us pray to our villainous hero: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” AMEN.