By: Chris McNerney and Daniel Lee
Last weekend ended with the Marvel/Disney film Guardians of the Galaxy earning the #1 spot at the box office yet again, and setting the record for the summer of 2014 with total earnings of over 275 million dollars in ticket sales. This has come as a surprise since the heroes in this movie are barely known by comic fans, let alone the larger movie-going public, but the combination of sci-fi action, a popular sound track, and a tone that does not take itself seriously has connected with audiences across the country.
Though the humor can be crude and juvenile at times, what stands out as most significant in this film is how it reflects on the importance of community in our lives. As Christians we believe that before the foundation of the world, God lived in community in the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Out of this perfect love, God created man and woman to thrive in community. But because of the fall, we tend to live independently and believe that we can be completely self-sufficient. Today, the church sees a decline in membership because even Christians reject the idea that God sanctifies us, in part, through the relationships we have with other people. We want to go at it alone, not opening up our lives to the people around us. Community, however, is part of God’s plan and we were made to thrive in the context of messy and often broken relationships with others.
The film illustrates this in countless ways. First, the viewer sees that when individual pursuits are put to the side, something much greater can be accomplished. In the beginning, each character is pursuing their own goals: From Star Lord trying to make a quick paycheck by delivering the orb he has stolen, to Rocket and Groot trying to get the large ransom for capturing Star Lord, and finally Gamora and Drax both being motivated by a desire for revenge against people that have hurt and killed those closest to them. As the film progresses, however, this group has come together to do what would have been impossible to do on their own- save a planet. In addition, they have cast aside their individual and selfish goals for a greater good that not only helps them, but many other lives as well.
As Tim Chester and Paul David Tripp noted in their classic book, How People Change, in community “There will need to be times of confession and forgiveness.” This is most powerfully illustrated when Drax takes matters into his own hands in an effort to avenge his family, by contacting the film’s villain Ronan in order to confront him in a one-on-one battle. The result is the loss of many lives, and the loss of the orb which holds a stone that has the power to destroy whole planets when it comes into contact with them. Drax recognizes his folly and in a moment of humility, confesses that his anger and rage has not only been costly to the team, but was outright wrong. Instead of being cast aside, his friends accept his apology and welcome him back into the fold of the larger team.
Lastly, Jesus said “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. “ Luke 17:33. In community, we are pushed to die to ourselves in order for God’s plan to be advanced. In the film’s conclusion, one of the main character’s Groot, a talking tree, extends his arms and grows a thicket that surrounds the members of the team. As their ship crashes to the ground, it is this protective covering that preserves their lives, but results in his death. Though this mirrors the death of Christ on the cross for our sins, it also points to the call of every Christian to die to their selves in service to the kingdom of God. In giving over everything to God, He is glorified as supremely valuable and worthy of our sacrifice, and He is given room to work in powerful ways in both our lives and the world.
In the end, you can take or leave Guardians of the Galaxy, but community is not a choice for the Christian. It is an essential part of God’s plan to renew His creation and point an unbelieving world to Him. God sent His Son, Jesus – who lost the perfect community of Father and Holy Spirit on the cross – so that sinners in pursuit of their own treasures could become a new people, in fellowship with the God who made them for himself.