Sometime back, someone found this blog by searching in Google “Romans 7 Hulk.” I had to look through things because I really couldn’t remember if I wrote about that or not (Apparently I did). But it got me to thinking about what Paul writes in Romans 7 and how much it is truly related to Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk.
The Hulk started off as a commentary about the arms race during the Cold War. Bruce Banner was a scientist who was working for the government to build a better bomb–a gamma bomb. And the gamma radiation had an ill adverse effect on him, in that it hulkified him. At first it was just at night he became the hulk, and then after awhile it was when he became angry (don’t make him angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry). Over the years, people have made the Hulk into an awesome TV show with cheesey special effects, one bad movie (which we won’t talk about ever again), one good movie with a geeky Bruce Banner played by Ed Norton, and a better angsty Bruce Banner with Mark Ruffalo.
Hulk is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of character but with a lot more strength and limited vocabulary. He acts out of pure rage and frustration. He is stronger than stronger and smashes things. A lot. Like a ton. There are times where they try to make Hulk into more of a tragic trying hard not to be the monster everyone says he is (see the Disney XD Marvel Hulk and the Agents of SMASH…with Seth Green and Eliza Dushku in it, Jos Whedon would be proud). Still, even here, Hulk struggles. He struggles with what he doesn’t want to do yet does and with what he knows he should do but doesn’t always.
The Hulk is constantly being hunted down, misunderstood, and basically forced into situations he doesn’t want to be in for various reasons.
In Romans 7, Paul tells of his struggle with his inner beast, his inner Hulk, the sin that invades him and wants to bust loose.
“I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:14-15
“I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do not do the good I want to do but the evil I do not what to do–this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:18-19
Strong stuff here. Strong stuff in deed. Massive strong stuff. It’s like he’s describing a monster, a beast, a hulk, trying to escape and wreck havoc. A struggle we all go through. We go through it when we feel hurt, when we feel rejected, when we get angry (to be honest, no one likes you when you’re angry), when we feel pain. We go through it when we try to justify our actions that hurt others, that it’s for this reason or another. The beast rears it’s head, the hulk smashes through, and we struggle constantly with it.
It’s part of human nature to struggle between the two–our own desires and what we know should be done. There are times when humanity bursts forth in such greatness that we applaud the goodness of humanity. In times of natural disasters people rally together to help others in need. And there are times where the anger breaks through to the point of destruction and we wonder about the nature of humanity. Are we good people turned bad by society and life situations or are we already messed up and life situations and society just makes it easier to display?
Either way, the Hulk is within ready to break forth and smash.
One of the things I like about how Mark Ruffalo portrays Bruce Banner is how he brings in the angst of the human character. He knows the beast is inside of him and he struggles with keeping him in. He struggles to not use him because he knows once unleashed he can’t always control himself and worries about the damage he’ll do and has done. He’s wracked with guilt about the things he’s done as the Hulk.
Paul is too
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Romans 7:24
And then Paul gives the solution to the hulk inside, shuffling throughout Romans 7 is the struggle to contain the beast, the monster, the hulk inside.
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!…There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 7:25, 8:1-2
The beast is still there, the monster still pacing, the hulk still ready to break forth, but this time there is control. There is the ability to know that the monster, the beast, the hulk of sin doesn’t define us but instead is subdued by Jesus. There is freedom in Jesus. There is life in Jesus.
For Bruce Banner, all the past hurts and pains he’s caused as the Hulk can be pardoned and he not punished for them as he worries and fears. The same is true for us. Despite it all, there is a pardon, a freedom, a new life available where there is a new identity, not the Hulk inside of us, but Jesus instead.
It’s yours for the asking, will you take it?