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.
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!
Faith makes things possible -- it does not make them easy. --
He who feeds his faith will starve his doubts to death. --
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.”
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.
Do what you can,
with what you have, where you are. -- Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. -- Proverb
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
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,
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.
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