Kevin Larter – Junior High Pastor
As I’m sure most of you already know, the biggest thing in the cinematic universe right now is Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. As of the time I’m writing this paragraph, it has been the #1 movie in America since it was released two weeks ago and has over $875 million in worldwide box office earnings during that time. In fact, the Avengers franchise is so successful, I’m sure by the time I’m finished writing this, it will have collected another few hundred million.
And I’m not complaining. I saw the movie. I’ve seen all of the Marvel movies these past 7 years. And I thoroughly enjoy them. And when you watch all of these movies—in my case, several times over—you start to see some patterns, some common themes. I’m not talking about the broad storyline involving the villain Thanos and his plan to rule the universe by acquiring all of the Infinity Stones. (You can read about that in about a gazillion other blogs.) I’m talking about a deeper theme—the driving force behind many of the characters that make up these movies. It’s the prime source of conflict in just about every Marvel movie. I’m talking about the idea of revenge.
Think about it. Loki wants revenge on his father Odin for not telling him the truth about his heritage, and he wants revenge on his brother Thor for him being the favored son. Ivan Vanko wants revenge on Tony Stark (Iron Man) for what happened to his father. Aldrich Killian wants revenge on Stark for rejecting his work as a scientist. The Maximoff twins want revenge on Stark for his weapons ruining their childhood. (Apparently Tony Stark wronged a lot of people.) But it’s not just the bad guys who want revenge. Captain America wants revenge for what happened to his best friend Bucky. Hawkeye wants revenge for getting brainwashed by Loki. I mean, just look at the name of the group of good guys: The Avengers.
Avenge – to inflict harm in return for an injury or wrong done to oneself or another
Now while revenge is a common driving force and fantastic source of conflict in superhero movies, it’s not a great driving force in your real life. It eats at us. It’s harmful to our soul. It keeps us from moving forward. But don’t take my word for it. Just look at the life of Jesus. If anyone was justified in seeking revenge against someone, it’s Jesus. Betrayed by a close friend, arrested, brought up on false charges, whipped, beaten, and hung on a cross to die. And then there are these Roman soldiers, at Jesus’ feet as He hangs on the cross, and they’re gambling for His clothing. Feelings of anger and thoughts of revenge should be flowing through Jesus’ body, mind, and soul. But what does He do instead? He prays to God, “Father, forgive them.” Forgive them? They’re mocking You. They’re murdering You! They don’t deserve forgiveness! And that’s the point. No one deserves forgiveness. I surely don’t. But God offers it to me anyway. And because I’ve been forgiven, I need to pass that forgiveness on to others. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
So may we all learn how to let go of our anger, how to seek mercy instead of revenge, and how to pass on to others the amazing forgiveness that God has offered to us.