Back in the day was a TV series called Merlin which was shown on BBC1…I wonder if you have ever watched it. It is your classic Goodie vs Baddie story with all the complications along the way, and only recently have I caught a glimpse of why people loved it. Whilst delving into the story for myself, investing in the characters, and journeying with them to their destination, something struck me.
In almost all films, books and stories there are villains. The villains are there to create tension, add to the varied story line and to provide a challenge to the hero…after all, a hero wouldn’t be a hero without the villain…right?
The thing I’ve found most interestingly recently whilst watching Merlin, other TV shows, and newly released films, is the way the story teller presents each character in order for us to despise the villain. The way the story presents itself begs the audience to grow a frustration towards the baddie in such a way that our hate feels very real…even though most of the time each of these stories we are told are fiction. The hero, the villain and the villagers are offered to us through a pre-decided lens which has been chosen for us that strongly encourages us to despise the villain and love the hero and their gang.
In Merlin, the villain is King Arthur’s step-sister, Morgana, and throughout some of the seasons she does all she can to kill Arthur…no spoilers…I’ll let you find out for yourself if she succeeds. I found myself sucked into the story line and falling into the movie making trap of hating her, and everything she did. The story presented itself so well that falling in love with the hero’s gang was incredibly easy, and falling out of love with villain’s gang was even easier.
The challenge and question I found myself asking was, ‘If Morgana was a real character in the community in which I lived, would I love her like Jesus has commanded me to?’
Jesus makes it very clear that we are to love our enemies. In Matthew 5 Jesus went up on the mountain, sat down with his people and began to teach them things that seemed a little alien to them – his teaching was saturated with justice, love and life. Interpreted by ‘The Message’ in verses 43-48 Jesus says this,“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
The challenge of loving our enemies is very real, very present and extremely hard, but what I love about this version of what Jesus says is this line, ‘You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity.’ Loving the villain isn’t about giving into their evil powers, their harmful mind-games, and evil schemes, but it’s about becoming the disciples God has created us to be whilst living alongside our enemies.
Many in this world do not believe in God because they cannot and will not believe in someone who they do not understand and cannot see. I do not understand how this works; to show mercy, love and grace to those who bring destruction, harm and ruin seems illogical, but I chose to trust it to be true. I trust that this way of living that Jesus teaches us to live is the best way of living, and I will do my best to live it well.
Will you join me?