Arrow: Failed This City
Gonna go ahead and put this out there in print, Arrow was the first comic book hero show to be well done in modern times (although I will give a loving high five to 2001’s “The Tick”). Yes now we have super hero shows coming out our ears with Agents of Shield, Peggy Carter, Constantine, Flash, and the upcoming Netflix Daredevil series, but Arrow kicked this wave off. CW managed to do something great with Oliver Queen. Yes, the first season started off a bit slow, resembling a hardcore cross between Batman Begins and a random teenage melodrama, but it got much better quickly, and as I write we are at the halfway point of season 3. I am loving it. This is a show that brought on Deathstroke, The Suicide Squad, Flash, the Al Ghul family, and even put Jack Harkness and River Song on the same show. So enough fanboying, on to the relatively meaty stuff.
For the uninformed and those yet to binge watch this on Netflix, I’ll keep this spoiler lite. When Oliver Queen returns from 5 years on an island (sort of) and is enacting justice (although season 1 was much more pure vengeance) on those who have brought about the corruption in Starling City. With his handy notebook of offenders the “Hood/Arrow” would emerge from the shadows and declare “You have failed this city,” promptly before riddling them with Arrows.
As season 2 moves forward he goes a lot less vigilante and a lot more hero, but yeah he was hardcore in the beginning. After hearing “You have failed this city” enough times I began to wonder who I would say that to. Like whom could I call out for failing the community around us (no bloodshed of course)? Then I started asking myself how I would measure up in this same standard. Heck, even the Arrow himself. He left such a body count in the first season that if Batman was around he totally would have took this guy down as a common costumed criminal. Even the Arrow doesn’t measure up to his own standards. In reality most of us don’t live up to our own standards either. We are critical when others don’t live up to them, but conveniently overlook our shortcomings.
The psalmist points out in the book of Psalms that we don’t live up to God’s standards either, but thankfully God is a little more merciful than the Arrow. “If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” - Psalm 130:3-4. The Arrow has no claim to administer justice or punishment. He isn’t the law, he hasn’t been appointed, and he hasn’t been personally wronged. God actually has every reason to bring us retribution. We are His. We are His by creation. Even more, believers are His by redemption. It’s His laws we have broken and his heart we wound by sinning, yet He still shows us mercy. For that I am truly grateful. Does this mean I want the Arrow not to shoot people? No, it doesn’t. Count Vertigo needs a few pointy objects hurled in his general direction. But when it comes to how we treat ourselves and others, yes we have failed. We have failed our city, our community, our friends, our families, but biggest of all we have failed our God. He offers mercy in the face of our failure. So unless you are up against Deadshot, consider offering mercy the next time someone fails.
One of the other aspects you see in the world of Arrow is people struggling with their own hearts and guilt because of their failures. Arrow has thought he was too far gone to be a Hero. Arsenal felt like because of his actions, he couldn’t be trusted. Canary even makes this heart breaking statement, “What I am....is irredeemable.” When all we do is come down on the crimes, sins, and failures of others, it’s easy to forget that redemption is the lens we should see shortcomings through. If we let our guilt or fear of relapsing into failure hold us back, we deny the redemption that God offers us. Ollie may mope, pout, and be a brat in the face of his team’s failures sometimes, but redemption has still shone its way through. How much greater is God’s redemption and reconciliation?
“And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Colossians 1:20-22). Paul shows that Christ is capable of bringing about redemption and reconciliation to all. Because of what He did for us, there is forgiveness for even what we consider to be the worst of sins. We are told that not only are we reconciled, but that we are presented before God as Holy, spotless, and clean where no accusation could even be brought against us. When all you do is beat up criminals with a staff alongside a rich guy in a stylish hoody shooting bad guys with arrows, it’s understandable to be unsure about how you find redemption. When you have a perfect savior willing to sacrifice Himself so that you can stand forgiven before God, it’s another thing entirely. Just like when Arrow took on Diggle, Felicity, Canary, Wildcat, Jason Blood, Detective Lance, Huntress, or anyone else in his crusade, he had a purpose. His goal was to use these like-minded (sort of) individuals to help him save his city. He didn’t give Roy a stylish costume and say “Here this is for you to wear at Comicon.” He trained him, invested in him, and equipped him for a specific purpose. We need to be reminded that yes we have failed, yes God redeems us, but when He redeems us it isn’t to return to where we were before.
He redeems us for Himself, as we see in Titus 2:14, “ Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
When we are redeemed in Christ, it’s more than to just go to Heaven, get out of Hell, or escape our guilt. It’s so that we can do good where He has placed us. He invested in us so that we can be His hands and feet doing the work of His Kingdom. He wants us to do good where we are, and wherever He sends us. Yeah, we may not get to wear domino masks, hoodies, or become skilled in the ways of archery, but if God redeems us and equips us, we will have all that we need to do good.