I finally went to see “The Dark Knight” last night, and have felt somewhat “haunted” ever since. Today, I feel extra observant while performing the most mundane tasks, I hear drums and trombones when I walk, and I keep waiting for the Joker to pop out of a trash can and ask, “Why so serious?”
Stories of vigilantes in disguise touch such a sympathetic chord within us. They are unlikely heroes, struggling to establish a dual identity, unrecognized for the weight of responsibility they carry. Aragons suppressing nobility to fight for a people who do not recognize their need. Frodos allowing the war raging around them to explode within in a conflict of desires as they press forward into their calling. Bruce Waynes hiding strength behind the masks of arrogant fops to better protect a people who hate them. Heroes who persist in helping even when they’re not wanted. Heroes who would somehow seem less heroic if they lost their mystery.
Why does the “secret warrior” hold such a sway over our imaginations? Perhaps because it is a concept that first came to us from the heart of God Himself. Daniel 10 shows us the intensity of warfare that takes place when we pray, with the angel Gabriel breaking away from warring with the prince of Persia just long enough to deliver a message before returning to the fight. The villains in “real life” are more malicious than those in the movies; the most developed and chilling antagonist pales to two-dimensional in comparison. They have interminable resources. They do not listen to reason. They have no compassion. They touch our deepest vulnerabilities, creating confusion with glee, breaking our ranks, turning us against ourselves. They never sleep. They never stop looking for the chinks in our armor.
It’s enough to make you want to whip swords around your head and scream like a banshee while tackling every innocent bystander you see to the floor in an effort to protect them. Yet, Jesus called us to do massive exploits in private, tucked away in prayer rooms, unsung and uncelebrated. Peter was well acquainted with the concept of a double-identity when he wrote about being a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Peter, tossed into a reeking prison, beaten, crucified upside down and writing in a time where Christians regularly faced martyrdom, probably didn’t look like a royal son of the ultimate King.
But that’s the way the kingdom works, isn’t it? The last become first. The good deeds done in secret are rewarded openly. True believers esteem others as better than themselves. The King of the ages washes feet.
When I think about the person who hurt me and choose to offer up a silent prayer of blessing over their lives, I’m taking up arms. When I pay my electric bill with gratefulness that God provided the resources I needed, I’m assaulting oppression. When I pass a stranger on the sidewalk and whisper a request that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened and they would see Jesus for who He is, I’m wrestling for eternal life.
Today, I’m not simply one of millions of Americans working a nine-to-five in countless cities across the country. Nor am I “just” the damsel-in-distress waiting in peril for Batman/Superman/Spiderman to swoop in and save me just in time.
No. Today I am poised, alert, and fierce–with a touch of scorn for injustice. I am the defender. I am the warrior. You just can’t see it on the outside.