The Irony of Iron Man

I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago without Mary or my kids.  I took advantage of my free time to see the movie Iron Man.  Overall, this was probably my favorite superhero movie to date.  Robert Downey Jr. was wonderful.  He played the part well.  He was funny and winsome.

What I found ironic about the movie was the role of violence.  Robert Downey Jr. plays the part of a powerful CEO of a weapons manufacturing company.  He is an ultra smart playboy who is responsible for designing some of the most revolutionary weapons on the planet (think the modern day equivalent of the atom bomb: his weapons are supposed to be game-changers in a war).  Along the way, he has a change of heart.  He sees the havoc his weapons produce in the hands of the wrong people, and he commits his life to righting that wrong.  He sets out to develop a sort of super weapon (the Iron Man suit), so that he can annihilate any military cell that is using his weapons for ‘evil’.  In a sense, he wants to eradicate violence by being violent.  He want to stop people from blowing things up by blowing those people up.  He wants to stop the use of his super weapon by creating an even greater and more powerful super weapon.

All this reminded me of the pernicious property of evil.  We all recognize evil in our lives.  We all want to remove it from the world.  But, we usually choose to do it in the wrong way.  We usually choose to combat evil with more evil.  We confront harsh words spoken to us with more harsh words.  We scold our kids for hitting another kid in their class with a spanking.  We respond to a friend’s wrong doing with  gossip and slander spreading the evil further afoot.  We, like the Iron Man character, frequently respond to evil with more evil.

The message of Christianity is a call to respond in the opposite.  The way Christians are called to respond to evil is not through violence or more evil but through suffering sacrifice.  We are called to absorb evil.  Instead of being a tuning fork that reverberates the effects of evil throughout the world, we are called to be a pillow that evil sinks into never to return.

Christ did this fully on the cross.  The evil of the Roman Empire and the Pharisees sent him to his death.  Their jealous, envy, hatred, malice, loathing, and more was the root of Jesus crucifixion.  He was the subject of cruel and unusual punishment, injustice, and torture.  He was sentenced to be executed because of the evil in men’s hearts.  And yet he did not respond with evil.  He did not raise up an army of violence.  He did not shout profanities or curses at his accusers.  He absorbed the evil, and he showed us the true way to defeat it: forgiveness. 

When we forgive our attacker, we neutralize the power of evil.  When we lay down our right to retribution we arrest evil in its tracks.  When we choose to love, to serve, to sacrifice, and to forgive we conquer the evil that confronts us.  Jesus defeated evil in a radically new way, and now you and I are invited to follow in his footsteps.  We are invited to live a similar life of forgiveness that absorbs evil as we encounter it.

“He was treated harshly and afflicted,
but he did not even open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block,
like a sheep silent before her shearers,
he did not even open his mouth.
He was led away after an unjust trial –
but who even cared?
Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living;
because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.”
Isaiah 53:7-8