My friends and I enjoy watching action-adventure movies. That is the core of our entertainment diet. The basis for any good action-adventure flick is consistent:
- Reluctant hero with a loner mentality; skilled with firearms and military-grade weaponry. Usually standoffish in a physical or emotional way, but has a soft spot.
- Overabundance of weapons and ammunition.
- Excellent vehicle chases with awesome crashes.
- A villain.
- A victim (person, community, country, world).
- Witty dialogue. Extra points for witty and clever remarks made in the heat of battle.
- Mass destruction of property.
- Limited loss of life. (This is relative, of course. If the population of a small country must be sacrificed to save the world… that’s a limited loss of life). By design, the villain(s) must be sacrificed near the end of the adventure. Unless there’s a sequel.
A common twist on the elements of the story is to provide a backstory where the hero blames himself for screwing up in the past. Guilt is a great motivator in these types of movies. It is not a great motivator in real life.
To be fair, guilt has its good purposes. Internally guilt tells us we went off track, and it help us identify where. Guilt is a necessary part of being human. Without it a human isn’t fully human… they are a psychopath (which makes for an acceptable movie villain, by the way).
Sometimes guilt comes as a result of ignorance (“I didn’t mean to step on your hand.”) Sometimes it comes as a result of rebelliousness (“I stepped on your hand in to show supremacy.”) Sometimes it comes even as a result of someone else’s actions. If I went into a convenience store with my friend and he stole a candy bar without my knowledge, later I might feel guilt associated with my law-breaking friend. Extreme examples are abuse or negligence or absence of nurture. Battered wives often suffer from guilt.
If we hold ourselves guilty for something that was done by another, we wrongly take on the blame. The movie “Good Will Hunting” touches on this very topic. You can find the clip of the most famous scene on Youtube. It’s a great movie, even if it isn’t action-adventure. Warning: The street language used in the clip is crude.
Wrongly accepting (or taking) blame and guilt can mess up a person’s perspective on who they are, what they do, how they live. Especially if it begins in childhood. It fosters a dysfunctional family of lies and misconceptions. Our own burden(s) are tremendously heavy; the added weight of others’ burdens is too much.
In the first four books of the New Testament portion of the Bible we get an account of the life of Jesus Christ, the manifestation of God: fully God and fully man. The government and leaders of that time killed Jesus as a criminal, even though He never sinned. Even so, the guilt of all humans was borne by Jesus. This is a staggering and mind-boggling scenario.
Consider the implications and contradictions: guilty humans – having rebelled and earned death – condemning the innocent God-man to death, and His death pays the price for their guilt. Our guilt. All humans’ guilt. Past, present, future… all of it. Even that thing you don’t want to talk about.
In contrast to the movies, God’s action-adventure story relies on a Hero who isn’t a loner, who is completely innocent, who defeats the villain by dying a criminal’s death, and who is resurrected from death. Instead of chaos and destruction and car crashes, He brought reconciliation and healing and mercy. His only weapons are compassion, love and grace. This is how my own rebellion was defeated.
Seems to me that humans haven’t learned much about handling our guilt. We still use it as a weapon against others. Sometimes Jesus-followers still hold onto guilt that has already been paid for. Guilt can be the driving factor in divorces, murders, adultery, abuse, wars, fraud, neglect. In the action-adventure-movie analogy, that’s the chaos and destruction.
Christ-followers know – or should know – past guilt isn’t theirs to carry. In God’s eyes, you and I are as innocent as a newborn baby. Humans like to grade things in shades of gray but God says it’s black and white. Because we have believed in and surrendered to the real Hero of the story, we are guiltless, blameless, innocent, clean. There’s nothing we can do to make ourselves “less guilty” to God.
Here’s a couple of songs that help me grasp this incredible grace:
Peace and blessings.