There is something about serving. It’s almost part of our human DNA to want to serve others, to do something more nobler than ourselves. There are many schools, colleges, and universities that require times of volunteer service in order to graduate. And as followers of Jesus, it is part of our calling to serve others, laying down our lives for others in the process. Followers of Jesus, like Jesus himself, are to serve not to be served.
Now this being a spiritual sci-fi Friday post, there’s something from the world of geekiness that we can glean about serving, and we can learn it from flawed servants.
Now, I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The MCU is basically the Avengers films, that is films such as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and of course the Avengers movie itself and all the movies and TV shows therein. X-Men and Spider man aren’t technically part of this franchise since the rights for these movies are owned by other companies (and are too stingy to really do cross overs). The thing about the MCU is that it is filled with flawed people who, for one reason or another, decide to serve others.
Tony Stark is Iron Man. He’s a playboy techno-genius-math-whiz guy. His company Stark Enterprises built a ton of weapons for the government until Tony was captured and held hostage in the mountains of Afghanistan and saw what his weapons he made had done. Out of penance and remorse, he ceased all weapons manufacturing and created the Iron Man suit in order to help correct what he had done and to help others.
Bruce Banner was a mild mannered scientist working on gamma radiation when something took a turn for the worse and turned him into a green hulking brute wanted by the government. He tried to hide to protect himself and those he loved. He tried controlling his anger, suppressing it so the big green guy couldn’t come out. Didn’t work out all to well. In the end, the soldier Blonsky became the Abomination rampaging cities and Bruce Banner had to embrace and accept his anger, not letting it control him but controlling it in order to serve those who persecuted him and save others.
Thor was a rich kid living off of his dad’s rep and money. Oh, and he’s also the son of Odin, the ruler of the Norse gods. Thor’s lust for adventure and battle makes him unworthy to wield the hammer Mjolnir. Only those who are truly worthy, truly noble, truly willing to serve others with a pure heart may wield the hammer. Thor has to learn what it truly means to rule as a servant leader.
Steve Rogers is one of my favorites. He was a weak puny kid who wanted to fight the Nazis. Not because they were krauts and fighting was cool but because he didn’t like bullies. Despite his size, he stood up for others. He stood up against injustice and suffered the beat downs that ensued, yet still stood up for them. After receiving the super solider serum, he kept that attitude. Even in Winter Solider he kept that attitude through and through. Yet he still struggled with trust issues and what truly was the right thing to do.
The Black Widow kicks butt. She is awesome (and also deserves her own movie). She has a past she doesn’t share. She has done things she wants to forget. She follows orders. Yet even she begins to wonder and struggle with what it truly means to serve and how to truly serve others.
Nick Fury is different (and when played by awesome Samuel L Jackson kicks major butt). He is the epitome of a flawed servant. He wants to do the best he can to protect and serve not just his friends, but also the world. Yet he is morally gray in some areas. He’s hard to pin down. The question always brought up is do the ends justify the means? The cause might be good, but how you get there is just as important.
We are all flawed. We’re all messed up one way or another. We all struggle with our own baggage and personal issues. And yet, we are called to serve despite that.
This is a running theme throughout the Bible to tell the truth:
Jacob was a cheat and a liar yet God used him to set up the 12 tribes of Israel.
Moses stuttered and was a bit of a scardy cat at first, yet God used him to be brave and speak boldly.
Gideon was a coward yet delivered Israel bravely.
Samson was a drunk and a womanizer and used his power unwisely.
David was an adulterer and murder but was called a man after God’s own heart.
Jeremiah started off really young as a prophet and had a hard time keeping his emotions in check.
Peter was flaky.
Paul was a murder.
James and John had delusions of grandeur.
God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. He doesn’t call you because you have it all together, but he calls you because in being messed up you’re in the best place right now to serve him.
Jesus called the Pharisees to repentance and faith and service too. They didn’t listen. They didn’t see themselves as flawed and therefore doing pretty good serving in how they thought was best (which wasn’t really all that good or God honoring). Those who were flawed, hurting, on the fringes, saw how they could serve God in their own messiness.
Despite being flawed, despite having a ton of baggage, (despite Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton), despite moral ambiguity, the Avengers came together to serve and being wiling to lay down their lives for others in the process.
You don’t have a super technological suit, you don’t grow into a giant green monster when angry, you don’t wield Mjolnir, nor do you kick butt like Black Widow or Nick Fury. But you have been given what you need now by God to serve him here and now. You have been given the tools you need to serve God in Jesus’ name today.
What are your tools? How can you serve God in your flawedness and messiness today?