“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
So, last time, I offered up the beginning of my review of Marvel’s Luke Cage. It is a story that invites some theological reflection in part because it is consciously rooted in a theological framework. The main character is a preacher’s kid and the main villain quotes Scripture constantly and always carries a Bible well-worn from being read and marked up. I said I thought there are three lessons worth learning for followers of Jesus. Let’s talk about those now.
The first lesson comes out of the main antagonist, Willis Stryker’s, near obsession with the Bible. Although illegitimate, he was the son of a preacher too, the half-brother of the main character, by way of an affair with his secretary.
At one point late in the season, Stryker offers another character the chance to hold and flip through his personal Bible. It is clear it has been read and reread numerous times. The bindings are loose and worn. Each page the character examines is filled with underlinings, highlights, and margin notes. From the look of it, he is a serious student of the Scriptures. He even quotes several verses by heart throughout his episodes.
So then, why is he the villain? Well, because it’s Hollywood, and anyone who is a serious student of Scripture has to be the villain of the story. Okay, that’s not true…well…it’s not entirely true. He’s the villain—and a particularly nasty one—because for all his study of the Scriptures, he very obviously never met the God of grace and mercy and love revealed within its pages.
This points us toward the first truth: Just because we read the Scriptures doesn’t mean we get following Jesus right. If we are hearers only and not doers, or if our doing is rooted in bad interpretation, we are going to be just as lost and mired in sin as someone who never read it in the first place. Actually, we may be worse because our reading may give us the false confidence that we’re on the right track when the truth couldn’t be more different.
How do we avoid this trap? We read Scripture with our hearts and minds consciously submitted to the Holy Spirit who inspired it. We read it in the context of a community who holds it in high regard and who can help us check our understanding and interpretation. We read it with our eyes and ears open to what the God it reveals has to say to us through it, ready to do what He says as quickly as possible.
The second lesson comes from Luke’s father. Our sin has a way of coming to the light. There is no such thing as hidden sin. There is only currently covered sin. It will come out eventually. The longer we try and hide it, the messier that eventual revelation will be. And the mess won’t be confined to our lives alone. It will trickle down through the generations of our family to affect those who come after us.
The solution here is simple: Pursue righteousness at every turn and regardless of the cost. Flee from sin and the death it will unleash in our lives if given a half a second’s worth of chance. And when we find ourselves in a place of sin, we own it, repent of it, and seek to make reconciliation with whomever we have wronged as quickly as possible.
Lesson three: Jealousy and unforgiveness will eventually destroy us. As I said yesterday, Stryker, blamed Luke for all his troubles. He never forgave his dad for the wound he dealt to him by having him illegitimately and then denying him for the rest of his life. And that unforgiveness eventually became a bitterness that left a wake of death and destruction everywhere he carried them.
When we don’t forgive others who have wronged us, number one, we cut ourselves off from God’s own forgiveness. But more importantly for right now, that unforgiveness becomes a root of bitterness in our lives that eventually grows to bear particularly deadly fruit. If left to its own devices, that plant will choke the life out of everything and everyone around us.
The only hope here is to actively forgive those who offend us. We must forgive them as quickly and completely as we can. Whenever the pain comes back up again in our hearts or minds, we forgive them again. This is the only thing that will keep that root of bitterness at bay.
One great series, three powerful lessons. May you learn to engage with the stories you consume through the lens of the Christian worldview so that you can always see and celebrate what is true, while rejecting or learning from what isn’t. It takes a bit of effort at first, but eventually it becomes second nature, and you can enjoy the stories you encounter even more than before. Get to it.