Captain America: Civil War is the hardest Marvel movie for me to watch.
And please bear with me if you couldn’t pick out Iron Man of a lineup. You won’t need much superhero knowledge at all to understand where I’m going with this one…
The Marvel Cinematic Universe — a series of twenty-two interconnected superhero films I never expected to love — quickly won my heart around a year ago. I know, I was a little late to the game. From the moment Tony Stark declares “I am Iron Man” for the first time, to the moment he sacrifices his life to save mankind, and all the space and earth battles in between, the characters of Marvel have felt like family and real heroes to so many of us. Teens and young adults especially.
First formed by Iron Man and Captain America, the Avengers are a team. A team that joins forces against all the villains of the universe (even the ones with which they have a complicated relationship) in an effort to forge a better world. They work together and become family, even in the midst of hardships.
Maybe that’s why Captain America: Civil War is so hard to watch.
Throughout the entire movie we watch the tension between heroes Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Steve Rogers (Captain America) grow. They are both on opposite sides of a very logical debate. A debate that viewers can easily see the pros and cons of each side.
As the movie progresses the team begins to crumble. Sides are taken and lines are drawn. The Avengers are completely split in half as each side begins to fight an epic battle against each other. Their own Civil War.
As you watch the movie it is so easy to see what they’re missing. So easy to see where they’ve got it wrong. So easy to gasp and feel the hurt from the screen as the battle against their teammates results in one of them almost losing their life.
Finally we get to the end of the movie where the true villain is revealed. A man that had worked to twist the truth so the Avengers would turn on each other instead of uniting against him as a team. His entire plot was to get them to draw sides and lines that put them at war with each other, so they missed the real war they needed to fight.
The villain puts it this way: “I knew I couldn’t kill them. Stronger men than me have tried. But if I could get them to kill each other…”
That cuts to my heart.
I watched this movie again very recently and this is the part that broke me the most. Because it was then that I could see.
Christians, what are we doing?
So much of this movie can be seen in the drama unfolding between the church as a whole throughout this last year.
I have watched the Church within America divide for centuries. When I was a teenager, it was over music styles. Whole churches would split in half because they couldn’t agree. It was over carpet colors and decoration styles or lights and drums.
But today it is over a piece of cloth. Over a pandemic. Over political views. Over lockdowns and social distancing. Over what we each believe is right or wrong.
The church of America has become just like the Avengers.
We have missed the real enemy in our own battle to war against each other.
Ephesians 6:10-13 puts it this way:
The armor of God is one of the most popular passages of Scripture. Yet if you skip backwards just a little bit, we see a common thread throughout the book of Ephesians and here’s what it is that leads into what we read here in Ephesians 6.
Living worthy. Humble and gentle. Patient. Forgiving. Showing great love. United.
Here’s what we miss: Unity does not equal agreement. Unity equals community.
We get so mixed up in believing that to be united we must agree on every little thing when that is not true at all. However true Biblical unity is all about holding as one, staying together as a team—in spite of our differences and disagreements, because we hold to what is greater than all of that.
Our calling to follow God and love as He has does not change because we must wear masks. Or because we must social distance. I dare say, it in fact emphasizes those characteristics of love. Our calling to be one in God does not change based on outward circumstances or even disagreements.
In Captain America: Civil War, if the Avengers had put aside their disagreements (no matter who was right or wrong) and worked together to defeat the real enemy, the movie would’ve had a much happier ending.
For we do not fight against flesh-and-blood enemies. Our enemies are not of this world.
But we fight against one another as if we are the problem. As if your neighbor that has a different political view than you is the enemy. Or as if the people asking you to put on a mask to love your neighbor are asking you for war.
And the whole while, our true enemy—that sneaky devil—is sitting back, watching from afar saying the same things as the villain of Captain America: Civil War.
“I knew I couldn’t kill them. Stronger men than I have tried. But if I could get them to kill each other.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
For thousands of years the enemy has not been able to destroy the church by attacking it. Outward persecution in foreign countries where religious liberties are rare could not even stop the spread of Christianity.
But if he could get us to turn on each other.
We could destroy ourselves. Destroy our influence. Destroy our purpose. We could have our backs turned on the world and the people that need Jesus because we’re too busy arguing over who should wear a mask or who should be president or if we should have church in-person or online. While we’re busy with these honestly seemingly meaningless debates, we’ve allowed possibly thousands of people to slip by without being shown who Jesus truly is.
We have been fighting the wrong enemy, Church. And I believe enough is enough.
You have been called by God. Will you walk worthy of your calling? Will you rise up and pick up your sword and fight the true enemy? Stand up and look around. We are fighting the wrong battles.
Walk worthy. Be united in love. The world is watching. Will we let the enemy win?
It’s time to get back to fighting the real battles, Church. The enemy is waiting. Are you ready to pick up your sword and fight?