DUALITY OF LIFE: BEING BATMAN AND LUKE CAGE
When I was growing up one of the things that I liked was watching superhero cartoons. As a kid, on Saturday mornings I would watch the Super Friends, which would eventually turn into the Justice League of America. The Super Friends were composed of Aquaman, Batman, Robin, Superman, and Wonder Woman. They would add The Flash, The Green Lantern, Hawkman, etc. On Saturday mornings, the Super Friends would battle the Legion of Doom….Lex Luthor, The Riddler, etc. The one superhero that became my personal favorite was Batman. Over the years, I have been able to figure out why Batman was my favorite superhero. Batman’s secret identity is Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and owner of Wayne Enterprises. After witnessing the murder of his parents Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne as a child, he swore vengeance against criminals, an oath tempered by a sense of justice. A few weeks ago, I watched the Luke Cage series on Netflix. Luke Cage is an ex-convict imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, who gains the powers of superhuman strength and unbreakable skin after being subjected to an involuntary experiment. As I watched the series, it became apparent that Luke Cage was a superhero for hire, that was a defender of his community against injustice. The similarities between these two superheroes is that they are both fighting for justice against injustice in their community. But the differences between them is that one is a DC Comic superhero, the other Marvel; one is in Gotham, the other in Harlem; one is white, the other is black. But the most intriguing difference is that one has flesh that can be penetrated and the other one doesn’t.
Unlike most superheroes, Batman does not possess any superpowers; rather, he relies on his genius intellect, physical prowess, martial arts abilities, detective skills, science and technology, vast wealth, intimidation, and indomitable will. Luke Cage doesn’t have a costume, yet defends himself with the only thing that he has, his skin. His skin can’t be penetrated. Bullets, knives, and the like just bounce off of his skin. In the 20 plus years that I have been in church, the 18 years that I have been in ministry, and the 6 years of being a pastor, there have been times that I have had to be like Batman…defender of justice, using detective skills to figure out how to move the people of God forward, maneuvering through the maze of theology and community relations. But for me and others we spend most of our time-serving the Lord being more like Luke Cage. We are consistently and constantly doing ministry having to have thick, impenetrable skin. God has made us all with a complex system of emotions. Some of us wear them on our sleeves, some of us hide them very well, but all of us have them and because of that, all of us have the ability to be hurt; to experience pain and sadness and disappointment and often it comes from the way that we’re treated by other people.
The person with thick skin is able to deal with the hurt, deal with the pain, and extend forgiveness to the person or persons who have hurt them. It doesn’t mean that they don’t hurt or that they are immune to anger or bitterness over the actions of others, but they have learned not to let it consume them. The person who develops thick skin is the one who understands the nature and the necessity of forgiveness. Forgiveness, this is one of the hardest things for many of us to do. We live in a day and age where we love to blame. We blame anything on anyone and then feel that we are justified to hold a grudge and to return pain for pain. The reality is that a lot of us like to hold onto those things that are done to us, we hold onto the anger, we dwell on the pain, we think of ways that we can get even, but God says to us, don’t let it penetrate, let it go, and trust me to take care of it.
Learn to forgive.
Without forgiveness, there is no relationship with God, and our ability to forgive goes hand in hand with experiencing God’s forgiveness in our lives. This is a teaching that is often ignored, it’s a teaching that is often not fun to look at or talk about. All of us have been hurt, all of us are tempted to hold a grudge, but because of the price that was paid to obtain our forgiveness, God commands that we forgive freely as well.
Giving ourselves away involves being vulnerable. We must be willing to be hurt a little if necessary, in this life. A lot of people need a thicker and tougher emotional skin than they have. But, we need only a tougher skin, not a shell. To trust and love is to open ourselves up to being hurt. If we are hurt once, we can do one of two things:
We can build a thick protective shell to prevent being hurt again, and live like an oyster.
We can “turn the other cheek” and remain vulnerable and go on living continually giving friendship and comfort no mater how we are treated by others.
In conclusion, the duality of life is about not solely allowing our fears to push us forward to do life in our own Gotham communities. In addition, to be thick-skinned enough to not allow for it to eat away at our hearts. This week, as you maneuver your way through your life and deal with the vicissitudes of this city, ask yourself how thick is your skin?