Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Holy Metaphors, Batman!

After the tragedy in Aurora, it took me a little time to get around to seeing The Dark Knight Rises. After finally seeing it, though, you had to know I'd have something to say about it!

Logo for The Dark Knight Rises © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding, LLC
The Dark Knight Rises logo
For those who haven't seen it yet, I recommend you see the movie before continuing, as A) it's very good, and B) this post will necessarily contain some important spoilers. For those who continue, I'll explain how The Dark Knight Rises has a lot to say to Christians about spiritual warfare.

At the beginning of the movie, we learn that Batman has been a fugitive from the law for eight years (since the events of The Dark Knight). Batman has been largely in hiding, and Bruce Wayne is no longer the healthy young man he used to be. Years of fighting and running have weakened his body and crushed his confidence. But this does not keep evil from coming to Gotham, and soon it's clear that Batman will have to come out of hiding to save the people yet again.

In a similar way, we see that although age and weakened bodies eventually affect us all, there will always be evil and injustice for us to stand up against in this world. The devil - like Bane - wants to test us to see which will break first: our spirits or our bodies. But we must not grow too tired, lazy, or disheartened to join the fight. Instead, we should follow the examples of Paul and other saints before us who endured everything, that they might "fight the good fight" to the end and receive the Lord's reward (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

"So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time 
we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up." 
- Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

When Bruce Wayne finally decided that he needed to come forward to face the evil Bane, though, he knew better than to simply run into battle unprepared. Instead, we see him strengthening himself the best he can, putting on his armored Batman costume, and consulting with Lucius Fox to make sure he has the best new weapons to take with him.

Batman comes prepared for battle © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding, LLC
Batman comes prepared for battle
Likewise, for us, when we stand against the attacks of the devil, we must find our strength in the Lord (Psalm 28:7). Just as Batman's suit was specially made for Bruce Wayne, so we must use the tools we are familiar with; remember that while someone else may have good advice, you ultimately must fight your battles with the skills and tools God has given you, which may have been revealed in previous battles (1 Samuel 17:37-50). Finally, we mustn't forget to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who gives us spiritual gifts (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11), and consult the Word of God, which arms us appropriately for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-17).

Even being properly attired and having the right tools, though, that doesn't automatically mean the fight will be easy. Batman's first encounters with Bane do not end well, to put it mildly, and his final endeavor is fought with much pain. So, when we take a stand against evil and oppression in this world, we may expect setbacks and opposition. But it's okay if the world hates us. Remember, we don't belong here!

Still, sometimes the enemy can beat us down. At one point, Batman seemed to be defeated. He was broken and cast into a prison pit. We may feel the same way sometimes. In those desperate times, we would do well to remember the promise that God is with us.

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there."
 - Psalm 139:7-8 (NIV)

Next we should consider how we came to this place, that we might learn from our mistakes. For Batman, Bane explains that part of the reason he was so easily defeated is that he had grown accustomed to using the shadows to his advantage instead of focusing on his fighting skills. If we hope to avoid Batman's fate, we must diligently train ourselves in the ways of God, that we might always walk in the light and never compromise with the darkness; but if we do fail, we can still return to the Lord and seek his help (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 John 1:5-7).

Also, consider what it is that keeps us in the pits, so that with the Lord's help we might overcome. When Bruce Wayne first tries to climb out of the pit, he falls. At first he seems to have a broken heart because of it (not to mention his back!), but he remembers Alfred's question from Batman Begins, "Why do we fall, Master Wayne?" In Batman Begins, the answer is, "So we might learn to pick ourselves up." In picking himself up in The Dark Knight Rises, however, Bruce eventually learns that what was holding him down was fear. In order to finally climb out of that pit, he will have to climb "as the child" - without a rope. Similarly, if we hope to overcome life's obstacles and claim the victory of the kingdom of God, Jesus says we must become "as a little child" (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17) - trusting the Lord completely because, as I explained a couple weeks ago, faith is the opposite of fear.

If we allow God to teach us from our mistakes, seek the Lord and his ways, and trust him completely, we will not be disappointed in the end. We will see firsthand that Miranda Tate speaks truth when she tells Bruce, "Suffering builds character." In fact, it builds more than that! (See Romans 5:3-5)

This brings us back to our theme of perseverance to the end.

Catwoman: "You don't owe these people any more. You've given them everything."
Batman: "Not everything... Not yet."

When I heard these words, my thoughts immediately raced to Hebrews 11-12. In Chapter 11, the author gives us several examples of what it means to live by faith. Then, after he has given us the "what", in Hebrews 12:1-3, he gives us the "so what":
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [the saints referred to in Chapter 11], let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him [the joy of being able to give us victory as he welcomes believers into the family of God - see Hebrews 2:10-11] endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him [Jesus] who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart."
And then in Verse 4, we are reminded that while Christ has made the ultimate sacrifice for us, we have not yet given our lives to the point of death in suffering for him:
"In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."
As long as there is life in us, we must continue to fight the good fight. We must live up to the words of our baptismal covenant: to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We must draw our strength from the Lord. We must use whatever tools God has given us, learn from our mistakes, and rely totally on him, faithfully enduring to the end. Do not fear even death for the Lord's sake, because we have a hope - like Bruce Wayne in the end - in resurrection!

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, 
because when he has stood the test, 
he will receive the crown of life 
that God has promised to those who love him."
- James 1:12 (NIV)

Check out these related links:
* The Baseball Rev - "The Whole Armor of God"
* "Of Evil Angels" - sermon by John Wesley

1 comment :

Please comment on this post. Do you agree with me? Do you disagree? Is there something I left out or should have covered? Was something confusing? I want to know what you think!