In my office at church hangs a picture which is from what I personally believe is the greatest movie of all times ever made: Batman – The Dark Knight. I can watch it a hundred times and still watch it with great excitement. To be totally honest with you, when I first heard about it, I had my reservations about it. After all, being a comic book lover, when I heard about Heath Ledger playing the part of The Joker, I assumed that he would be a sad excuse for the famous villain. I could never have been so wrong. His portrayal of the sinister mastermind of mayhem was so intense and true to the original comic series, I found myself captivated by the role.
The sheer evil and callousness of the Joker seemed liberating; to do what you want, when you want and with no remorse seemed refreshing and invigorating. Be honest; don’t you agree that there are things you would like to do and have no consequences of guilt for doing them? The Joker did just that. He didn’t care what you thought, how you felt, what your history was. If he saw fit to kill you or manipulate you, you became part of the plan. And the best part of all was his motive for his actions: it wasn’t for money, fame or selfishness; it was for the joy of chaos. Even in the scene where he was in the hospital with Harvey Dent (Two-Face) and he gave him the gun where Harvey could have killed him instantly, the Joker encouraged him and pointed the gun to his own forehead and encouraged him to pull the trigger in order to “free” Harvey to become a fellow “agent of chaos”.
Now before you have the authorities come and wrap me up in that nice white coat that has the hands wrapped around yourself and tied off, read on. It will make sense when it’s all said and done.
I do not condone any of the Jokers actions, nor do I want to imitate any of them. I do not believe in violence nor rendering evil of any sorts. Of all the villains known to the world, in my opinion, there is none so pure sadistic and evil as the Joker. That being said, why would I, a Christian pastor and family man, relate to such a person as the Joker?
The answer is simple, pure, and honest: I have the same potential of becoming as cold, calloused, and evil as the Joker. The difference is that God has seen fit to call me unto Himself and has shown me a far greater purpose that what I would become if left to my own desires. I know myself and what I am truly capable of doing if I so choose. My past could have easily led me down the same path of which the Joker had. My sins are just as great and devastating as the character Heath Ledger portrays.
The picture which hangs in my office get, as you might imagine, many different responses. Some think it is really cool while other find it quite disturbing for a pastor, a man of God, to have such an evil character prominently displayed in a church office. But after they hear my reasoning for it, it helps them to understand I am not glorifying the evil of the Joker but glorifying the grace of God.
You see, when I look at that picture, I see what I am capable of doing should I decide to live for myself. I can see myself being a user of people and a great manipulator of those around me. I can surely see myself gratifying my worldly desires and not give a hoot about what the outcome would be. I see how I could be one of the greatest agents of chaos and rock the world around me; distancing myself from those who love me and from God.
When I look at the Joker, I get the chance to see the true difference that having people who truly love you and having a greater God who calls you unto greatness in Him can have on a life that the world deems “worthless”; as in my own life. I get to understand that I never have to be an agent of chaos but one who attempts to remove chaos from the lives of others. As Batman fought against the evil in the world while still having a moral code, I found myself attempting to do the same.
The effects of sin can (and does) transform the life it enters into. Tell me if this quote explains it well:
The terror of sin is its petrifying effect. The process of sin is quite discernible. No man becomes a great sinner all at once. At first he regards sin with horror. When he sins, there enters into his heart remorse and regret. But if he continues to sin there comes a time when he loses all sensation and can do the most shameful things without any feeling at all. His conscience is petrified.
Paul uses two other terrible Greek words to describe the heathen way of life. He says that they have abandoned themselves to every kind of unclean conduct in the insatiable lust of their desires; and that they have done so in their shameless wantonness.
The word for shameless wantonness is aselgeia. It is defined by Plato as “impudence”; and by another writer as “preparedness for every pleasure.” It is defined by Basil as “a disposition of the soul incapable of bearing the pain of discipline.” The great characteristic of aselgeia is this—the bad man usually tries to hide his sin; but the man who has aselgeia in his soul does not care how much he shocks public opinion so long as he can gratify his desires. Sin can get such a grip of a man that he is lost to decency and shame. He is like a drug taker who first takes the drug in secret, but comes to a stage when he openly pleads for the drug on which he has become dependent. A man can become such a slave of liquor that he does not care who sees him drunk. A man can let his sexual desires so master him that he does not care who sees him satisfy them. (The letters to the Galatians and Ephesians. 1976 [W. Barclay, Ed.]. The Daily Study Bible Series (152–153). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.)
The Joker has become the image of what sin can be when it manifests itself in our lives. And as we look at this prior quote, we gain an understanding of how deep sin goes into our soul’s marrow.
Scriptures tells us:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8: 1-11; ESV
In the same way the Joker released Two-Face unto chaos, Christ released me unto righteousness. Unlike Two-Face, I don’t have to leave my life to chance. I don’t have to flip a coin because I have a choice which I alone command. When I choose Christ, my life becomes whole and meaningful. It now has a purpose. And He promises the same for ALL who believe. I must say that as I look at the picture of the Joker, I thank God every time because of the grace awarded to me; not by my own merit but by Him and His great love for me.
Thank You for saving us from ourselves. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we all can relate to the likeness of the Joker. However, that relativeness can become past tense when we allow You to release us unto Your grace and forgiveness. Help us to see what we were and are delivered from when we see the face of evil in this world and how great is Your love for us is. We pledge our love to You and ourselves to Your great purpose. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.