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LIFE MEETS THEOLOGY:

I'm No Hancock, But ...

by Greg Williamson (c) 2008

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LIFE: Imagine Superman as an alcoholic, vulgar, foul-mouthed jerk. That is Hancock, the main character in the 2008 movie of the same name, starring Will Smith in the lead role. Or at least that is Hancock prior to the super-makeover he receives at the hands of a grateful fan who happens to be a (struggling) public relations agent.

 

How the makeover unfolds and what happens afterward, including a couple of real twists, makes the movie. While the language and behavior of the old Hancock can be a bit much at times, it does help highlight the dramatic differences in the new one.

 

THEOLOGY: It's possible to find in Hancock some valuable lessons that coincide with biblical truth.

 

The power of faith. Hancock has a horrible -- albeit much-deserved -- reputation. Booze and a bad temper make for a very destructive superhero, and typically Hancock's efforts to do good are accompanied by astronomical property damage. The situation takes a miraculous turn for the better only after someone expresses faith in Hancock's ability to change which, in practical terms, means having faith in Hancock.

 

Faith is, of course, the bedrock of the Christian life, the classic definition of which can be found in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Or, as the New Living Translation (2nd ed.)  helpfully renders it: "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." As one commentator of yesteryear has noted: "Faith apprehends as a real fact what is not revealed to the senses. It rests on that fact, acts upon it, and is upheld by it in the face of all that seems to contradict it." [ref] Faith makes us certain of spiritual -- that is, unseen though nonetheless very real -- realities. Faith is the foundation upon which our Christian life stands. [ref]

 

As the remainder of Hebrews 11 demonstrates, true faith includes much more than the easy believism that is the hallmark of cultural Christianity. Genuine, saving faith includes faithfulness. Put simply, this means some things are off limits for the sincere, committed follower of Jesus Christ. The short list of both what is to be avoided and what is to be pursued can be found in the apostle Paul's correspondence to the Galatians:

 
 

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

 

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:19-23, NLT2)

 

Faith makes things possible -- it does not make them easy. -- Anonymous [ref]

 

He who feeds his faith will starve his doubts to death. -- Anonymous [ref]

 

Serving others. Hancock had been given tremendous abilities which were intended for the help of others and the betterment of society. Living out of synch with his purpose brought him much shame and sorrow, while living in accordance with it brought him peace and personal happiness.

 

Contrary to the me-first radical individualism that pervades much of our world, Christians are meant to serve God by ministering to (= serving) others. No greater example can be found than that of our Lord, who both taught and personally modeled self-sacrificial service:

 
  42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, NLT2)

 

While worldly leadership typically involves dominating, oppressing, and exploiting others, such is not to be the case among Christ's followers. Instead, we are to take the lead in relinquishing our rights in order to serve others voluntarily and sacrificially. [ref]

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -- Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) [ref]

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. -- Proverb [ref]

 

Strength and weakness. As it happens, Hancock was suffering from a severe bout of amnesia: he did not know who he really was. With the knowledge of his true identity, however, came both strength and weakness.

 

In his famous "thorn in the flesh" passage, the apostle Paul captures well the paradox of strength in weakness that marks out the life of the surrendered servant of Christ:

 
 

7 ... So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

 

8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NLT2)

 

With greater insight comes greater temptation to pride -- hence God's painful, humiliating/humbling gift to Paul.

 

Like our own, Paul's was a world that valued strength in any form -- athletic, military, political, or financial -- and disparaged any form of weakness. Paul put a radical twist on the whole idea of strength by insisting that when we are weak, then we are strong. While we may wish for God to use our strengths, he may instead choose to use our weaknesses. Why? Because too often our strengths lead us to rely on ourselves, while our weaknesses force us to rely on God. [ref]

In the loving will of God, suffering has a purpose that can be fulfilled in no other way. Accept it, and it will become a heavenly blessing; fight it, and it will become a heavy burden. -- Warren Wiersbe [ref]

 


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