Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Lone (But Not Alone) Ranger

I don't know why, but Hollywood has really been on a kick for the last decade or more, trying to turn every TV show you can remember from childhood into a big screen blockbuster. Some have been better than others, but I've really grown to dread these remakes. Maybe the rest of the country has grown to dread them, too, or maybe cowboy pictures just aren't "cool" anymore. I'm not sure how to explain the fact that after only one weekend, Disney's The Lone Ranger is already being called a flop, but I personally thought it was pretty good. It might not be as family-friendly as the TV show from the 1950s, but it's entertaining enough I thought it would fare better!

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in The Lone Ranger
I'm not even a big fan of Johnny Depp, but I have to say he's hilarious as Tonto, and I think Armie Hammer puts a good spin on the role of the title character. Despite some language, a visit to a brothel, and some occasionally brutal violence, there's still a lot about this movie that is faithful to the original, and not every change is bad.

As I watched the new movie and thought back on the classic TV series, I came up with five points of encouragement I think Christians can take away from this story.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!!!

1. You have been chosen.

Like so many movies today, the new Lone Ranger film is an origin tale, so we get to find out: Where did the Lone Ranger come from? Why does he wear his mask? How did he befriend the Indian, Tonto? And how did he get his trusty steed, Silver? The movie's answers are very similar to those from the classic TV show

If you watch both the new movie and the pilot from the TV show, you'll notice they have a lot in common. A group of Texas Rangers are betrayed by a man named Collins, and are led into a canyon where they're ambushed by Butch Cavendish's gang. The outlaws leave the Rangers for dead. Tonto discovers their bodies and digs graves for them. He also discovers that one Ranger is still alive, and nurses him back to health. The surviving Ranger then adopts a mask fashioned from the vest of his brother (one of the slain Rangers) to let the villains continue to believe he's dead. The stories are alike on these points, but of course the new movie plays it out a quite differently.

"Wait! That's different!"
One significant change that stands out to me has to do with the Lone Ranger's horse. On the TV show, Silver is a wild horse who has been gored by a buffalo. The Lone Ranger finds him and nurses him to health before taming him. But in the movie, it is Silver who finds the Lone Ranger and inspires Tonto to help him.

They explain in the movie that a solid white horse is known to the Indians as a "Spirit Horse". Tonto has already dug graves for the slain Rangers and is about to bury them when the Spirit Horse comes on the scene and indicates that John Reid is still (barely) alive. Tonto thinks the horse has chosen the Ranger to come back from the dead, and tries to convince the steed that he has chosen the wrong man. Dan Reid is a much better warrior, Tonto says, and the Spirit has chosen the "wrong brother" to save. It's much later when Tonto finally gets to the place where he can say, "Who am I to question the Great Father's decision?"

I wonder how often we act like Tonto in the church today. How often do we assume that the Spirit has made a mistake and chosen the "wrong brother" to serve the Lord? How often do we exclude people because they don't fit our ideal of what a Christian ought to be or we don't think they have what it takes to be good Christians because of something in their past? How often do we draw lines because of cultural or denominational differences?

Maybe you even think God's made a mistake by calling you. You don't know how God could possibly forgive you for something you've done, or you don't see why God would possibly want you...

The Good News is that God DOES want you. Not only that, but he wants all of us. He loves us even when - no, especially when we don't deserve it, and he calls us to leave the past behind and serve him wholeheartedly today. We see that truth in the Scriptures, when Paul writes:

"But God proves his love for us in that 
while we still were sinners Christ died for us."
- Romans 5:8 (emphasis added)

We see it again when Peter reminds us:
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
- 1 Peter 2:9 (emphasis added)
Remember - as a wise person once put it - God does not simply call those who are equipped, but God equips those who are called; and God is calling for anyone who will listen! If you'll allow God to use you, he will give you everything you need to accomplish his will for your life!

2. You have a new identity.

When the posse of Rangers was ambushed by the Cavendish clan, John Reid symbolically died, and the Lone Ranger was born. This is true in both versions of the story. If Reid wants to be successful against his enemies, he must stay dead - hidden behind his mask.

"Who is that masked man?"
In a similar way, Paul tells us that when a Christian is baptized, he symbolically dies to his old sinful self and is resurrected to a new life, and we ought to never go back to the old life (Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 2:20). Now, we are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3; Psalm 32:7), and we should look at each other through the mask of God's love (1 John 4:20).

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: 
everything old has passed away; 
see, everything has become new!"
- 2 Corinthians 5:17

3. You have been empowered.

In the new movie, Tonto explains that by "crossing over and coming back", the Lone Ranger has become a "Spirit Walker", which means he cannot be killed in battle, because he has already died.

This, again, is similar to the language Paul uses in Romans 6, where he explains that sin and death no longer have any hold over us because of what Christ has done. Those of us who have been raised to life or "born again" as Christians should no longer give in to sin, and we should no longer fear whatever might happen to us, since we know we have been promised eternal life through Jesus Christ!

Tonto, then, concludes that the Lone Ranger should be able to face any enemy without fear, since he cannot be killed in battle. And so, for the Christian, the same is true. No matter how the devil might fight against you, no matter how many times he tries to shoot holes in your life, the reality is that Satan cannot take away God's gift of eternal life! Fight bravely with the knowledge that you already have the victory when you put your faith in the Lord! (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10-11)

4. You have a responsibility.

Sadly, in the new movie, John Reid shows a preference to law books over the Holy Scriptures, but this does nothing to take away the fact that the Lone Ranger has always stood on the side of truth and justice - both strong Biblical principles. He stands up for the rights of those who have been wronged, but he never intends to kill criminals. He would prefer to capture them and bring them to to a fair trial.

Likewise, God expects us to stand up against injustice and oppression, but sometimes we have to be careful not to cross certain lines. It can be so tempting sometimes for us as humans to want to play the part of judge, jury and executioner, but as Christians we must remember that God is the judge, and we must give up the urge to seek revenge (Romans 12:9, 17-21). We have a responsibility to speak the truth in love when people are being led astray (Ephesians 4:15), and there's no reason we can't appeal to earthly judges for fair treatment, but ultimately, we must trust in the Lord to carry out true justice in the end (Revelation 20:12).

5. You are not alone.

His name might be The Lone Ranger, but he always has Tonto and Silver to back him up.  So, too, you may sometimes feel like you're on your own, but you're not.  As I mentioned on my other blog last month, no matter how lonely you may feel, I guarantee someone out there cares. If nothing else, remember that you are a valuable part of the larger body of Christ, and God himself is with you! He lives in the heart of every believer. He can lead you. He can comfort you. And he loves you more than you can even imagine!

"Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, 
and my Father will love them, 
and we will come to them and make our home with them.'"
- John 14:23

God may call you to do some difficult things and walk some rough trails, but you never walk alone!


The Lone Ranger may not end up being the box office smash I think it should be, but it does give us a lot to think about, and it encourages us to remember our identity and our calling in Christ. May you live in such a way (with God's help) that people who see you will wonder who you are, what makes you different, and how they can have what you have in their lives, too!

Until next time...

Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!

1 comment :

  1. Good stuff again, son! And for the record, I enjoyed the movie too! Of course, you knew that because we went together! :)



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