Holy Christianity Batman! Bruce Wayne and the Sermon on the Mount

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May 2, 2014

Matthew 5:13-16

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

CONSIDER THIS. . .

Batman Begins,” the first installment of director, Christopher Nolan’s, epic Batman trilogy comes to mind after today’s reading. A particular exchange between Bruce Wayne and his childhood friend Rachel Dawes captured my attention, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Bruce Wayne, aka “Batman” struggled in a deep and dark identity crisis leading him to waste the first half of his life. At a critical moment in the story, in a heated exchange between Wayne and Rachel , she spoke these words,

“Deep down you may still be that same great kid you used to be. But it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”

I immediately wanted to cry foul and say, “No, Rachel, it’s who you are underneath that defines what you do.”

My reading of THE SERMON with Wesley’s tutorial now convinces me otherwise. He refers to this idea of a soul divinely crafted with the beauty of holiness and yet withdrawn from the world of social interaction and engagement with others as a, “pleasing delusion.” Then he adds:

In order fully to explain and enforce these important words, I shall endeavor to show, first, that Christianity is essentially a social religion, and that to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it; secondly, that to conceal this religion is impossible, as well as utterly contrary to the design of its Author. I shall, thirdly, answer some objections; and conclude the whole with a practical application. p.70

Wesley solves this by destroying the dichotomy of inner and outer, private and public, by declaring Christianity “essentially a social religion.” By this he means if faith is not acting itself out in love in the real every-day world, it is something other than Christian faith. One’s religion is not a “private” matter but decisively social in character. It requires other people. Deeply personal, yes, but decisively social.

Holy Christianity Batman! It’s not what you do that defines you, nor is it who you are inside. It’s more like, “what you do reveals who you are inside.” A person can think they are poor in spirit, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, and pure in heart and yet be far from it. Later in THE SERMON Jesus employs the analogy of trees and fruit to get at this (Matthew 7:16-20). The outward fruit reveals the inward truth. It’s the deep congruence, or agreement, between the inner person and the outer life that defines the Christian. (In some ways it harkens back to the earlier post about a litmus test.)

We will get to the particulars of salt and light soon enough. For now, make sure you are grasping the issue being defined here. It’s one of the major governing dynamics of THE SERMON.

Get your copy of Wesley’s Sermons on the Sermon on the Mount HERE. Use the code DAILYTEXT for a 25% discount. 

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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