Captain America Civil War: Leaving the 99
So Civil War was easily one of the best geek films of 2016. I'm pretty sure it's the movie I watched most in theaters. I'd long been a fan of the source material, and even though I know there would be a much smaller landscape in the film adaptation, I was confident it would be great. The Cap series honestly is one of the few film franchises where each installment is better than the previous. So in the midst of my repetitious viewings of the shield slinger and their ensuing melees, one thing resounded with me over and over. It was the biblical concept that Jesus taught of leaving the 99 to go after the 1.
Captain America is synonymous with the Avengers. I mean seriously, the dude is called the first Avenger. The teams that were formed for decades following him were all shaped and molded from his example. It's hard to imagine the Avengers without him. In many way, the Avengers are to Captain America as the Church is to Jesus. Both have assembled followers who carry out the mission of their leader. Cap walking away from the Avengers was no small thing. It literally meant walking away from something in which he was effectively part of the DNA. So for Cap to willingly walk away from something that integral in his world, it would have to be seriously important. In the movie, it was Bucky. Yes there was more to it than that, like the beef with Iron Man and the government shoving the Sokovia Accords in his face. Yet more than anything, the thing that caused Steve Rogers to step away from his team was the fact his friend was worth it. He walked away from the Avengers and put himself and his team in jeopardy, all because his friend was lost, and more than anything Cap wanted to bring him back. This is exactly the attitude we see Jesus speak of in the gospels of Luke and Matthew when He teaches us about the 99. The Luke account goes like this:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninetynine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:4-7).
That is what Cap did. He left everyone in the open country, the wilderness, and the middle of insanely chaotic and volatile times and went after his lost sheep. He needed to find Bucky and save him before the world crashed down on him. He not only left the Avengers he was estranged from like Tony, Vision, & Rhodie, but he also left behind the ones still close to him like Falcon and Wanda. Bucky truly proved worth leaving the 99. Going back to the scripture we read before, check out Luke 15:7, "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” It was more important to have Bucky back than to stay where the others were. Bringing Bucky home was more important than the shield, the armor, the title, or the team. Bucky was family.
This is how Jesus is with us. He was willing to leave Heaven and come to this broken world to be in human form. He was willing to suffer through temptation, pain, loss, humiliation, and ultimately death. Jesus did all this for us while we were still broken sinners and before anyone reading this was even born. Cap's love and stubborn grace is admirable, but nothing compared to the relentless way Jesus pursued and continues to pursue us. Jesus isn't okay with the concept of a single one of us being lost. We are all worth it to Him. This is even more illustrated in Matthew's account of this story. He finishes it off in Matthew 18:13-14 with, "And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish." God is not willing that any of us should perish. He literally went through hell to bring us to Him. Sometimes we forget how intense God's love is. We forget how much we mean to Him.
This picture Jesus paints not only displays His love, but it is like a mandate and, even more, a model for us to follow. As the shepherd left the flock and as Cap left the Avengers, we are called to leave to go after our lost sheep. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you must leave your family or job or anything hardcore (unless that's what God calls you to); it means that we have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone. We have to be willing to walk away from our safe places of accomplishment where things seem fine, and go after the ones who got away or aren’t that easy. Go after the ones that seem like they are too far gone. For some of us, that might mean actually getting out of our churches. I’m not saying quit attending, but that you stop waiting inside the walls of a church for lost people to randomly roam in. Pursue the lost where they are. It's not like the shepherd just waited with the flock hoping the lost sheep would come back, or that Cap just waited at Avengers headquarters hoping Bucky would come turn himself in. If we want the lost to be saved, we have to leave our places of security and complacency and go out to where they are.
This doesn’t mean just telling them to come home. If you read Luke 15, when the shepherd found the lost sheep, he didn’t try and bring him back with a convincing argument. No, he picked the sheep up and put it on his shoulders and brought it home. When Cap went after Bucky, he literally had to manhandle a helicopter out of the air and drag Bucky back. We need to realize that to bring back the lost sheep, it will take more than just words and Facebook posts. It will take us getting our hands dirty, going to where these people are, and getting involved in their hearts and lives and not letting go.
What kind of investment are you willing to make in the life of a person who is lost in order to bring them back? You may be the only person that can. I've watched friends, partners, and family members all crash and burn. I've watched people walk away from God and everything good in their lives. I've watched a single bad choice bring down everything their life hinged on. I've watched as they gave in to attitudes of victimization. It's up to us to help bring these people back. James teaches us that not only are we rescuing people from sin and the pain in this life, but he tells us that we are rescuing them from death. He writes:
”My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)
Who is your Bucky? Who is the lost sheep in your life that only you can reach? There may be consequences for your actions, but even more dire consequences for your inaction. When Cap left his team aside, it was hard for those he left and those he left behind. For Iron Man, despite being a bit of a jerk, it was still hard to have Captain America on the opposite side of his actions. It was hard for Spiderman to have to fight against someone that he'd literally grown up knowing as a legendary hero. For Wanda, AntMan, Hawkeye, and Falcon, they also felt the consequences of this by being imprisoned for helping Cap. For you though, your consequences may look more like sacrifice of time. Your consequence may look like saying goodbye to your comfort zone. Your consequence may look like people looking down on you for being around sinful people. I don't know your life and can't predict what it will cost you. Leaving the 99 is never easy, but that one lost sheep is worth it. We also need to remember that leaving the 99 is a temporary situation, because once the lost sheep is found, you return to the 99. I hope someday you can be like that shepherd, like Cap, and like Jesus and rejoice over your lost sheep being found.