Wednesday, December 23, 2009


"Which of these characters, in your opinion, was the hero?"
Luke 10: 3:36

When you watch a movie like Avatar, with whom do you most identify?

More often than not, I have found that people connect with the character of the hero. In this particular case, it's Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic retired Marine in the year 2154 who embarks on a special mission to the alien world of Pandora (probably a moon of the planet Jupiter).

His is the story we follow from start to finish. Sully's mission is to telepathically control his "avatar" - a ten-foot tall blue-colored alien/human hybrid that has no brain activity unless it is given by the human controller - so that he can infiltrate and negotiate with the Na'vi aliens. On his first mission out into the Pandoran wilderness, however, Sully gets lost in the jungle.

This development in the story leads the hero to meet and connect with a local tribe of the Na'vi through a chance encounter with the beautiful tribal princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).

Unfortunately, as we follow Sully's adventures in wonderland so intensely, very few would identify with the corporate and military leaders back at home base. Why unfortunately? Because unless we clothe ourselves with each of the major characters, we won't know which one really fits us at this particular moment.

The risk of always identifying with the hero is that a person can become self-righteous and justified in everything they do, without discerning or reflecting on the possibility of their own sinfulness, shortcomings, or misguided motives.

When speaking in parables, Jesus did much the same thing as the movies do for us. He laid out several characters - but didn't always let his audience identify with the hero.

For instance, in the familiar Good Samaritan story (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus challenged his listeners to see themselves as each of the characters - the victim, the robbers, the priest, the Temple assistant, and the Samaritan ("Which of these characters, in your opinion," Jesus asks, "was the hero?" Lk. 10:36). Of course he ends the lesson by imploring his disciples to be the Good Samaritan, but before doing so, it's good to see which character reflects us right now.

So using the movie Avatar, which character are you most like at this moment in your life?

Are you Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), the compassionate yet stubborn teacher who longs for earlier days when she was able to make a difference without much interference?

Are you Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), the efficient profit-seeking businessman whose primary objective is meeting his objective, regardless of personal cost?

Are you Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez), the soldier who thinks twice about the inhumane and unethical acts she is asked to carry out.

Are you Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the brash and brazen military commander with an overly aggressive personality and a penchant for vengeance?

Are you Norm Spellman (Joel Moore), the dedicated worker who spent his life training and studying, only to be passed over by a co-worker like Sully with much less experience?

Are you Eytukan (Laz Alonso), the Na'vi tribal warrior who doesn't like outsiders like Sully, but over time begrudgingly accepts them into his inner circle?

As I looked at this list, I have been several of these characters at different times in my life. Yes, at first, I gravitated towards identifying with the hero character Sully - but I caught myself and wondered who else I might connect with, for better or worse. Seeing this bigger picture helped me to grow beyond my comfort zone and self-righteousness.

The character Sully had to ask himself the same thing. Who was he going to be? He could have been any of the people in the story (Col. Quaritch, Norm, Dr. Grace, Trudy, etc.), but he chose to follow the path of his hero, Neytiri. It wasn't an easy decision, just as the Good Samaritan is not necessarily the easiest character to identify with in Jesus' parable.

But before we can jump into the hero's shoes, we must first see where we are right now (even if it means putting ourselves into the role of the bad guy) - and how we can move to the greater calling that the character of the hero gives us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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