Friday, October 5, 2012

007 Lessons from 007's 007th Adventure

What boy didn't grow up wishing to be a spy/detective? When I was little, my grandparents would buy me "Spy Gear", which included things like fingerprint kits, toy passports, toy motion detectors, and tips on how to tail someone. Then and now, I could never get enough of mystery stories, and I still love to watch a good thriller - whether it's something serious or a spoof like Get Smart. But everybody knows the ultimate secret agent is one Mr. Bond...James Bond!

Sean Connery as James Bond50 years ago today, Sean Connery introduced us to James Bond, MI6 Agent 007, in his first big screen adventure, Dr. No, and now we await the release of the 23rd official installment in the series. Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig (the 6th actor in the lead role) will open in the US on November 9, 2012. (For release dates in other countries, see the list here.)

Gearing up for the new movie, I decided to watch some of the classics. To be sure, James Bond is a character with many vices, so I wouldn't recommend him as a role model; but as I watched Diamonds Are Forever this week, I noticed "007" truths every Christian on a mission should remember.

Truth 001 - Evil Has an Ever-Changing Face

007's nemesis in Diamonds Are Forever is Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the recurring mastermind behind the evil SPECTRE organization. In his earliest appearances (in From Russia with Love and Thunderball), we never see Blofeld's face - we only get the voice. When his face is finally revealed in You Only Live Twice, it is startling and repulsive: Donald Pleasance depicts him with a bald head and an ugly scar running from above one eye down his face, highlighting the villain's distorted view of reality. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, though, Telly Savalas' version is a bit more tolerable: he's still bald, but the menacing scar has disappeared. By Diamonds Are Forever, Charles Gray's Blofeld has undergone a series of plastic surgeries to look more ordinary, and even has a full head of hair! The character's voice likewise changes with the shifting actors, from cold and snake-like in the beginning to more acceptable and cultured in later incarnations.

The changing faces of Ernst Stavro Blofeld
The changing faces of Blofeld
Evil has a way of evolving, disguising itself so you won't recognize it. And it has a way of desensitizing us over time until the thing that would have repulsed us a few years ago becomes the new normal - even considered good by some. That's partly why Jesus warns us to guard ourselves, not just against known sinful actions, but against the attitudes that lead to sin (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). It's why the Scriptures instruct us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), to avoid every appearance or form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and to rely on God to show us what is right (Romans 12:2). It takes diligence, continual re-evaluation, and humility to stay on the right path.

Truth 002 - Good and Evil Clone Themselves

At the beginning of Diamonds Are Forever, 007 kills two people, believing each to be Blofeld, but they were only clones - not genetic clones, but willing men who underwent extensive transformations to look and sound identical to the real villain. Later, he kills a third clone before he finally does away with the right man (or does he?). Even apart from the identical twins, it's amazing how many people become willing servants to Blofeld. As the film goes on, we see that he has people everywhere - in multiple countries, working as doctors and teachers, in funeral homes and casinos - even the police are in his pocket! Thankfully, Bond also has a knack for recruiting people: both Tiffany Case and Willard Whyte eventually team up with 007 after he shows them the danger they were in and rescues them.

In the same way, a lot of people out there are serving the devil willingly - people in every land and every profession - most perhaps not even realizing what they're doing. It's sad because those who follow the devil will become more and more like him until the day they receive the same punishment as he (John 8:44-47; Revelation 20:10-15). But those who have been saved by Christ should likewise follow him by becoming more and more like him until the day they're finally transformed into his likeness (Philippians 3:12-14; 1 John 3:2-3).

Bond escapes the fiery coffin, but will you?
Bond escapes the fiery coffin, but will you?
Truth 003 - Evil Has No Friends

In our film, Blofeld enlists Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd to kill people whenever they cease to be of use or try to stand in his way. As they systematically eliminate everyone connected with a diamond smuggling ring (because Blofeld has all he needs for his evil plan), we understand that - while the devil is happy to use people to further his quest for world domination - ultimately even the "best" of sinners is of little value to him. He doesn't care how many souls he condemns to Hell. In fact, he is pleased whenever he can destroy another. The fact that Wint and Kidd watch and even try to cremate Bond reminds us that being a Christian doesn't insulate us from the devil's attacks. He will still do his best to destroy us if possible (1 Peter 5:8). In contrast, we know that Jesus loves and values everyone - the cross proves it! (John 3:16; Romans 5:8)

Truth 004 - It Pays to Know Something About Everything

You may be an expert at some things, but it's important to keep learning. James Bond may have been an expert at weapons, wine and women, but he didn't know much about diamonds, so M got someone to teach him. Afterwards, he was better equipped to follow the smugglers and get to the bottom of things.

It's important to know what's going on in the world and to study the Word so we can better recognize truth and fight evil, share the Gospel with others in relatable ways, and serve God to our full potential. Look at the apostle Paul. Note how his training as a Pharisee later equipped him to explain the ins and outs of the Christian faith to both Jews and non-Jews. See how he would often begin with a point in another religion or philosophy and use it to share the Gospel (see Acts 17:22-34). And consider his attempts to "become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22). Since knowledge comes from God (Proverbs 2:6), if we allow him to lead us, we can accomplish a lot of good!

Truth 005 - You Don't Have to Go Alone

I laughed once when someone said, "The Lone Ranger had Tonto, and even Elvis had his hound dog!" But the saying is right: there is strength in numbers (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Bond had support from M, Q, Moneypenny, Felix Leiter and others. It's important for us to surround ourselves with those who will help and encourage us, as well. That's what being the church is all about! (Hebrews 10:24-25)

It's also important know who you can trust. 007 thought he could trust Tiffany to pick up the diamonds because he had slept with her, but she double-crossed him. You can't always trust those who are close to you if they're non-believers - especially when it comes to spiritual matters - but I hope you've found some trustworthy friends. Never forget what a friend you have in Jesus! He cares (1 Peter 5:7), and he promises to be with those who love him (John 14:23). You never have to face life's trials alone. Like a diamond-studded satellite in the heavens, God is always watching, but he's much more involved: he is both willing and able to help you if you call on him.

Truth 006 - You Can't Always Be a "Secret" Agent

"You just killed James Bond!"
"You just killed James Bond!"
One of the silliest moments in the movie for me is when Tiffany looks at the ID card 007 planted on Peter Franks' dead body, and she cries out, "You just killed James Bond!" How a lowly diamond smuggler should have even known the name of our super-spy is beyond me! But while a real spy thrives on anonymity, Bond has always had a knack for blowing things up and making a spectacle of himself.

As Christians, we should be pointing to Christ instead of ourselves, but it's hard to point people to Christ if nobody knows you're a Christian in the first place. Don't be ashamed to share about your faith publicly, because you know the good it can do for somebody, and it's nothing to be ashamed of (Romans 1:16; Mark 8:38). Knowing the truth about Jesus, we can't be content to just Live and Let Die !

Truth 007 - Winners Never Quit

If you've made it this far, then you know the importance of perseverance and patience!

No matter how badly the odds seem to be against him, the super-spy never backs down. He uses every tool at his disposal - be it bare fists, gadgetry, wits, charm, a crane or even a moon buggy - to overcome the bad guy at all cost. Even when Washington said, "No," 007 said, "Yes!"

You and I must be just as determined never to let the enemy win. He won't give up without a fight; but remembering the truths above and using the tools I mentioned last month (concerning the new Batman movie), we can have confidence that we won't leave this world with our tails between our legs.

I will return in another post soon. Until then...

...I wonder if there will be Aston Martins in Heaven...

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