Friday, September 26, 2008

Good guys and bad guys

*The term "guys" will be used in a gender neutral sense in this discussion in reference to its colloquial use.

It used to be simpler, I think. At least on TV. Good guys dressed in white and bad guys dressed in black. Bad guys hurt people, while good guys helped people. Good guys were idolized, bad guys were demonized. Bad guys were hated- good guys loved.

Lately new characters have emerged, revealing the deeper complexity of being a true hero. I think of Spiderman who is haunted by the fact that "with great power comes great responsibility" and is oftentimes villianized by those he tries to help. Then there's Batman, who struggles between being the hero the people need and the hero the people want, letting himself be cast as the bad guy so the people can believe in a hero they can understand.

And I think about David. David, the shepherd. David, the musician. David, the poet, who wrote of God's beauty, intense love, creation, and tenderness. David who dreamed of restoring the Temple of the Lord, writing:

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on his beauty and to seek him in his temple. -Psalm 27:4

One thing. A life of meditation in the temple of the Lord.

But that wasn't his fate. It wasn't the kind of hero the Lord called him to be. Instead he became a warrior, killing thousands and tens of thousands, enacting the Lord's vengeance and bringing justice to His enemies. David acted within the will of the Lord and as He commanded, but it had its consequences.

King David rose to his feet and said: "Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, 'You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.'" 1 Chron 28:2-3

I try to imagine David as the Lord revealed this. The pain, the disappointment. I'll bet there were times when he looked at his life, his kingdom, his armies, and wondered how he had come so far from a flock of sheep and a harp. About how times were simpler then, and it was easy to know what was the right or wrong thing to do. Kill a lion trying to attack his sheep? Good. Obliterate an entire people group from the earth? Well, that one's harder to have a clear conscience about at night.

We face these decisions, too. Maybe we're not called to fulfill the vengeance of God, but we're called to live holy lives, and those decisions aren't always clear. Sometimes it means ending a co-dependent relationship, even though it makes you look cold and uncaring. Sometimes it's reducing your ministry involvement because you're stretched too thin, even though you appear to be "falling away". Sometimes it's rocking the boat when the status quo is calm, but stagnant.

Being a good guy isn't simple and isn't easy. It requires a deep and intimate conversational relationship with the Spirit. It takes the gift of wisdom from the Lord to show you what is right even when it's not what's obvious. It takes rivers of grace and mercy to minister to you when what is right is painful. And it takes trust to know that although you may not be the hero you imagined yourself to be, you are indeed a child after your Father's heart.

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