Many Avengers, One Body

Every time I sit down to watch a new movie in the popular ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’, I find myself asking the same question:

Is this going to be the one where the bubble bursts?

The upward swing, I believe, began with ‘Iron Man’ in 2008. Since then, the Marvel universe has taken our cinemas by storm – introducing us to a slew of interesting characters and continually setting the bar higher and higher for each successive film. Though there have been a few that were not as great as some of their counterparts, they’ve yet to miss the mark in any significant manner – they’ve all still been very good films in their own way. How much higher can the bar be raised before hurdling it become an impossibility?

I am pleased to report that, though there is a day coming in which the bubble that is Marvel’s popularity will burst, it is not this day! The movie was everything we’ve come to expect from Marvel and did not disappoint – the action was there, the interplay between the characters was there, and the comedic moments have never shone so brightly. This is a film franchise that truly gets their fans and what is expected of them, and delivers it. Consistently.

If there is any complaint that might be levied against the film, it could be that it was simply ‘more of the same’. The film doesn’t reinvent the wheel or attempt to do anything drastically different from what Marvel has been doing all along – and one day that may become tired. As for myself, I don’t feel this film was tired at all – and I think there is quite a bit of life still left in Disney’s golden goose.

As a Christian, I found that there was much to chew on within the narrative of this epic story. This is generally true of all ‘superhero’ flicks, as we find that no superhero can truly be ‘super’ without finding themselves mirroring – to some degree – the character of the one true ‘Good Guy’ to ever exist. Beyond that, however, the observant Christian viewer will find that the film has much to say regarding unity and isolation.

As a matter of fact, the movie opens up upon the Avengers – working in harmony as a well oiled machine – as they are in the midst of an important mission. We see the much-appreciated interplay between our heroes – how each has a role to play, a strength, and even how some of them are weak in areas and need to be covered by their fellow Avengers. The entirety of the scene, the playful remarks back and forth, the way in which the members of this team move in unity of purpose with diversity of talents really put me in mind of how things ought to be within the church.

Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12:14-26:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

The point of Paul’s words is that within God’s church, there is a diversity of talents and weaknesses – and thus, no person ought to feel like they are ‘less’ than others within the church (or more than others, for that matter), for they are all members of the one body. They each have a part to play and it is God who has brought them together, as they are.

The Avengers model this for us, to a degree – we see that the avengers who lack superpowers still have a role to play, and are not considered second-class citizens because of what they lack. We find that even those who do possess super powers have need of others to complement them – for instance, where would the Hulk be without Black Widow to calm him down when the work is done?

If the film shows this reality well, it also shows what can happen when someone diverges from the team and considers themselves as either more important or more useful than the others.

Proverbs 18:1 reads:

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

Similarly, Paul tells us in Romans 12:3:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

It is clear from these words that problems come in when one member of the body begins to isolate themselves from the rest, or begins to think of themselves as more important or more talented than the others. Without revealing too much, we find that the typical egoism of Tony Stark is what marks the beginning of the problems we find in the narrative of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Moving forward in his own wisdom, and refusing to consult with his teammates, Stark’s actions set into course the primary conflict within the story. In Stark’s case, he felt that talking things over with the others would delay what needed to be done far too long and so it was in everyone’s best interests for him to move forward alone, choosing not to include the others in the important decisions that needed to be made. The results were, of course, disastrous.

Watching this film fostered within me a sense of gratitude – gratitude that God has placed me within a church family who model well the principle of one body – many members. God has so ordained the time and place of my dwelling (Acts 17:26) that I get to (not have to, but get to) be in fellowship with amazing brothers and sisters in Christ. These people bring things to the table that I do not, and I likewise am able to support them with the talents that God has given me for our mutual building up.

May we as members of Christ’s body, the church, ever seek to operate in a spirit of unity within our local churches and the church at large. We don’t all have to be perfectly alike in every regard, and we certainly are not all gifted alike. We may even have disagreements within the family about the specifics of some non-essential doctrinal concern. Regardless, we do have an important few things in common – we are all members of Christ’s body, the church. And we are all saved by the same grace.

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