August 10, 2008

Tales from the Dark Knight

The other night my friend Jay and I went and saw the movie The Dark Knight. I must say it was stunning. I don't know if I can add to what has already been said about Heath Ledger's performance, but he plays the quintessential evil villain in this film. The Joker is evil not on the basis of a desire for wealth, power or fame, but purely on the basis of watching the world burn. He is truly a tormented soul!

In my opinion the movie has a really interesting moral undercurrent, and speaks tremendously about the moral code of all human beings and primarily does a good job of showing the conditions of natural law.

(Warning spoiler ahead)

Probably the most interesting scene in my opinion is the scene where in Gotham Harbor are two Ferry boats filled with people. The one Ferry is packed with inmates from the local prison, while the other is filled with innocent citizens. The Joker has devised a ingenious plan whereby both Ferries have been rigged with remote controlled explosives. He notifies each Ferry that they each have a detonator to the other Ferries bomb. However, he gives them an ultimatum. He gives them each 15 min to detonate the other Ferry. Whoever blows up the other Ferry first he will let that Ferry live. If neither Ferry makes a decision to kill the other group of people, then the Joker will blow up both Ferries.

Of course the citizens begin to rationalize that they have a legitimate reason to blow up the prisoners Ferry, because society will be better off if they were to rid all the criminals on that Ferry, that it would be justifiable to "kill the wicked" in exchange for the innocent. However, there are also innocent police officers, prison warden and prison guards to consider who are also on the Prisoner Ferry. This debate goes back and forth for several minutes in the film - showing both sides debating if they should blow up the other Ferry first for their own survival. In the end, neither group could bring themselves to blow up the other Ferry.

What came to mind was immediately natural law. Instinctively, each person - both criminal and innocent citizen realized to kill 300+ people would be a monstrous act and neither could allow that thought to pass by their conscience without tremendous guilt and shame. This also reminded me of when Jesus said to the group ready to stone the adulteress - "You without sin cast the first stone". It also reinforced to me that mankind is not "Totally Depraved", but man does operate according to his conscience and natural law instilled in us by our Creator. If man were truly "Totally Depraved", then by the very totality of that depravity man would have had no problem pushing that detonator - nor any associated guilt in doing, as guilt is a direct outward working of natural law. It would have been like child's play - simple, no guilt, no remorse. But instead - mankind has tremendous potential for good. In the movie the Joker is the one who thought man was totally depraved - was inherently evil. The Joker is trying to show Gotham that they need not to live by a moral code, but they should live according to their "true nature" - evil and chaos. It is the hero or the savior of the movie, Batman shows Gotham that he believes in the good people of his city and that they have great potential for good. He believes that given the right motivation they can rise above evil and live in peace. He is willing to go to any lengths to do this for the people of Gotham.

Again, I see many parallels between the redemptive story of Christ and his desire for his children to choose love over self. That Christ sees the great potential all of his children to love the Father and our neighbor. Christ came to awaken us from the depths of our own selfishness by dying on a cross. That he would go to great lengths to show us he desires mercy over sacrifice, that he desires genuine fellowship with his creation. It is a story that is universal and should speak to us all.

Are You Being Hated?

John 15: 18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

1 John 3:13-15
"Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."

Luke 16: 22"Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man."

Matthew 24:9 "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

As I survey the current landscape of the modern day church, I must admit I don't see these verses being presently fulfilled by the church today. Do we see churches to the point where men are wanting to kill us? I don't mean some subtle loathing by atheist or anarchist, but is the WORLD truly hating us? Do we see the world hating the church for its stance on sin? Do we see the world hating us because we have a love & devotion for Truth and Righteousness? Do we see the world hating us because we publicly denounce sin? Do they hate us because we are telling men and women to repent and love their God and Creator?

Instead we see churches who have seemingly embraced the world rather than rejected it. I see churches whereby their pews are packed to the brim , but yet I see our world spinning into further into darkness & rebellion - hence a connection?? I see churches that have more of a concern about being culturally relevant, than being heart broken over sin and wickedness in the world and how it breaks God's heart. I see churches that are rarely persecuted for their faith, but praised more for their entertaining services or how the pastor looked on Sunday. Where is the persecution??? Where is the hatred of believers in the name of Jesus??

I often wonder if the early church were hated because of how "loving" they treated others or if it was their their public rebuke of sin? I mean, were Christians really killed because of being overly nice to their neighbors, or were they killed and tortured for some other reason? Here is what Clement of Alexandria once wrote concerning the reason behind many Christian persecution:

"They persecute us, not from the supposition that we are wrong-doers, but imagining that by the very fact of our being Christian we sin against life (the world). This is because of the way we conduct ourselves, and because we exhort others to adopt a similar lifestyle" - Clement of Alexandria c. 195. Vol 2 Page 423 of Ante Nicene Fathers.

Christians were not killed simply because they loved their neighbors or for being overly kind to others, although naturally this is commanded by Jesus of all his followers. Instead we see that rulers and men murderer Christians because of their obedience to God and for exhorting and rebuking others to turn from sin and adopt a life of love and obedience. People killed Christians simply on the grounds that Christians caused people to have a condemned conscience and to have guilt over their sins. It was as if a light was being shined into the eyes of a person who had been sitting in a darkened room for so long, and that the light being shined forth by Christians was causing such discomfort of the persons soul, to the point of wanting to kill them to stop the light from shining into the darkness.

Where do we see any of this in our country? Where are our persecutors? I see a church that is being loved by the world because it no longer strikes conviction or repentance into the hearts of men, but rather have become places where men can come and find temporary relief or solace for their conscience. Where are the churches that are shining the light of Truth into the eyes of a darkened world? It seems to me churches are more concerned about abiding in their "Eternal Security" rather than striving daily to finish the race for Christ - and finishing it well!

Jesus said that we would be hated because of him - but where is that hatred?? Has the world stop hating the righteous, has the world stop hating Truth? No! Instead the world loves a lukewarm apathetic church. A church over grown with weeds and tares.

What will it take for us to be hated, to be persecuted? Here is what Leonard Ravenhill put forth:
......."The World has lost the power to blush over its vice; the Church has lost her power to weep over it. Do you ask, "Well now, where do we go from here?' The answer is, "Where sinful individuals or sinful nations can only go - back to a merciful God." Hear me! Every church without a prayer meeting condemns us; every Bible unopened condemns us; every promise of God unused condemns us;every lost neighbor condemns us; every lost heathen condemns us; every dry eye among us condemns us; every wasted minute of our time condemns us; every unclaimed opportunity condemns us. Next year is not ours. Tomorrow may be too late. Unless we repent now, unless we return and fire the prayer alters now, unless we fast and weep now, woe unto us at the judgment".
What the church needs to do is basic and very simple. Do what all great patriarchs and apostles did, they repented and weeped over their sins and turned their hearts toward God and a vowed never to break his heart again. Let us stop making our churches into 21st Century white washed tombs, whereby they are very appealing to the eyes of men and yet have little or no depth of God word. Let us take up the business of finding ourselves to be worthy in the eyes of our Lord and God and not the eyes of the world.