“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
I watched an action movie last night. It was a pretty good story. It goes like this… a bad guy is shown to be really bad. A good guy is shown to be bad, but not terribly bad, and we like him. Good guy and bad guy go at it, with bad guy winning for most of the movie. Towards the end, bad guy goes all-out bad and nearly wins. He takes out someone dear to good guy. Good guy is enraged and does something crazy to get to bad guy and gets caught. But as bad guy is just about to kill good guy there is a quick turn of fortune and good guy wins. He kills bad guy in some brutal fashion and we are all happy. We hated bad guy. We like good guy. And he won.
In retrospect, good guy was pretty bad. As we watch the movie we cut him all sorts of slack. After all, justice is at stake. And so for the duration of the movie we embrace the idea that the ends justify the means. Something about that kind of retributive justice works for us… an eye for an eye. It struck me that I was not the least bit uncomfortable with the evil-for-evil premise of the movie.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39)
I totally enjoyed the movie. Bad guys should lose, after all (unless I am the bad guy… but I never am, am I?). How does this square with my life as a follower of Jesus Christ? “It’s just a movie,” I say. But how much of it can I consume before it meddles with values that are variously shaped by my love of fallen culture as opposed to my love of Jesus and His Kingdom culture? Does watching such things influence my heart or simply reveal it?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
Yeah, yeah… I know. Of course, I am supposed to love my enemies. But it’s just a movie.