Friday, September 19, 2014

Get Smart (about Spiritual Warfare)

For some reason, over the past decade or more, Hollywood seems to have been obsessed with taking every popular TV show from the 60s through the 80s and turning it into an "updated" big-screen adventure. Generally speaking, I try to avoid these, because what they end up with is almost never as good as what we already have, and often their attempts to make things more "modern" or "adult" just ruin it - but once in a while, I can't help myself, and OCCASIONALLY I am pleasantly surprised!

The 2008 movie, Get Smart, is an interesting example, because there are definitely lots of elements that are meant to remind you of the original series: Max still uses all the old catchphrases from the TV show, character names are carried over, they still use the telephone booth and the shoe phone, and there's even a cameo by Bernie Kopell (the original Sigfried). There are other allusions to the old show, too, and yet, no one in the movie is really trying to do an impersonation of the original actors. Terence Stamp (the new Sigfried) said he had never seen the show before he assumed his role. Steve Carell (the new Maxwell Smart) didn't even try to imitate Don Adams' iconic voice or copy his delivery of the famous catchphrases. And yet, as a fan of both spy films and the old show, I personally enjoyed it.

Of course, Maxwell Smart was never as smooth as James Bond. He was always somewhat of a klutz, and made you wonder how he ever could have become a secret agent in the first place. But would you believe that the new Max can actually teach us some important spiritual truths?

Well, believe it or not, I'm gonna try to explain.....

First of all, in the movie, they try to show how someone like Max could become an agent by having Max start off as an analyst. Everyone in CONTROL knows that he lacks the physical skills to be a field agent, but he tries out every year for the promotion. When that opportunity does finally come (because a security issue makes it necessary), his background as an analyst comes in especially handy.

Because of his work as an analyst, Max understands the value of knowing your enemy. Early in the film, he presents a report to CONTROL based on a recording made of two KAOS agents in a restaurant. By noting what the agents are eating and drinking, Smart points out that the agents are under a lot of stress, and then he draws this interesting conclusion:
"All I am saying is that until we realize that our enemies are also human beings, we will never be able to defeat them. Yes, they are bad guys, but that is what they do - not who they are."
This understanding also helps Max later in the story, when he's fighting against a KAOS agent, and he suddenly connects the agent's name with his story. "I know you!" Smart shouts, and he empathizes with his enemy, and in the end, Max actually befriends him!

As silly as it may sound, there is lot of truth behind this principle. Whenever people wrong us, it's important to remember that they are still people. We don't always understand what makes them do what they do, but sometimes they're only doing what they believe is right, and sometimes they're just reacting to stresses and circumstances that have happened to them. We might learn a lot just by trying to put ourselves in their shoes and see things from their point-of-view. At the very least, we need to remember that God created them, too, and he loves them just as much as he loves us, regardless of who's right and who's wrong!

It's also important for us to remember who our real enemy is. The Scriptures make it very clear that even when people are dead wrong, and even when people do evil things, they are still not the real enemy. In an era when the Christians faced intense persecution (not unlike the situation for many around the world today), the apostle Paul encouraged the church:
"Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm."
- Ephesians 6:11-13 (CEV, emphasis added)
If Satan is the true enemy, then, we need to educate ourselves about who he is and how he works. He is the father of lies (John 8:44). He is our accuser (Revelation 12:10). He hunts us like a lion hunts its prey (1 Peter 5:8). He tricks us by pretending to be good (1 Corinthians 11:3). He tries to blind us to God's truths (1 Corinthians 4:4). He manipulates, he tells us what we want to hear, he plays on our weaknesses. "You're not good enough for God to love you." "It's just a little sin: nobody will notice." "You're just fine on your own - you don't need Christ." He tries to do and say whatever he can to get us to turn our backs on God, and until we understand something about him, it's so easy to fall victim to his attacks! That's why it's so important to know your enemy!

Once you know your enemy, something else you need to do is know your tools. Maxwell Smart (like James Bond) is famous for the many gadgets he uses, and there are several in the movie, from the classic shoe phone to the cone of silence, as well as blow darts, suicide pills, secret listening devices, and more. He's not always the most adept at using them, though. When he uses the tools of his trade well, he does well; but when he misuses them, the results are funny and disastrous.

Know how to use every tool in your arsenal.
For us, we have been given many tools by God, such as the armor Paul was talking about in Ephesians 6 - truth, righteousness, a willingness to go and share the Gospel with others, strong faith in God and his Word, assurance of our salvation, the help of the Holy Spirit to both defend ourselves and strike back at the devil - not to mention the kind of spiritual gits that Paul talks about in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and other passages. When we fail to pray, when we fail to study God's Word, when we fail to be attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we often are met with disastrous consequences that are not nearly as funny as the situations Maxwell Smart gets into. But when we use the tools that God has given us well, the results can be miraculous and amazing! Put up a good fight!

"Submit yourselves, therefore, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
- James 4:7

Another good point about Maxwell Smart (a good trait for any protagonist) is his perseverance. Although he often makes mistakes, still he always presses forward. Even when some of his own team stops believing in him and he's locked away in a jail cell, still he doesn't give up. And I think the lesson is pretty clear for us. There will be times when you fall to Satan's attacks. There will be times when you make mistakes. There will be times when you suffer, even though you're in the right. But you should never lose hope! (See James 1:2-4, 12; Romans 5:3-5; Revelation 2:10)

Finally, Max teaches us about the importance of knowing who to trust. In the movie, he trusts that the gadgets given to him by Bruce and Lloyd will be helpful. He learns to trust Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) as his partner. He depends on the Chief to give him solid advice and point him in the right direction, and to listen to his intel and do something about it.

We, likewise, would do well to trust other believers for help and advice as we fight our battles. We need to be able to depend on each other and to partner together, to encourage one another and spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-25). And yes, sometimes, we will encounter a "double agent" (as Max did), who pretends to be on our side but is really tearing us down. But even so, we need each other, so we must discover who we can trust, and try our best to work together for good!

Even more than we trust in ourselves or each other, though, we can trust in God. He, like the Chief, is there to advise us and point us in the right direction (James 1:5-6), and he listens and acts when we pray (1 John 5:14-15). Of course, it all begins with putting your trust in Jesus Christ, who has already fought the devil and won the battle for you, and who gives you the power to be victorious, too! (John 16:31-33)

"But thanks be to God,
who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ."
- 1 Corinthians 15:57

Maxwell Smart may not be the greatest secret agent in the world, but Agent 86 still has a way of getting things right in the end. Get Smart by knowing the enemy, knowing your tools, persevering to the end, and knowing who to trust so you can overcome evil with good, and you won't have to say, in the end...

"Sorry about that, Chief!"

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like these spy-themed posts:
* 007 Lessons from 007's 007th Adventure - Truths from James Bond's Diamonds Are Forever
* Would You Believe...? - Lessons from the original Get Smart TV series
* Moore About Good vs. Evil - A closer look at James Bond's Moonraker

No comments :

Post a 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!