Faith & Fandom
Injustice 2: Every Battle Defines You
Fighting games for me are usually hit or miss. I remember playing Mortal Kombat in the arcades until my entire supply of quarters for the year was gone in a matter of days. I played Street Fighter II on SNES until my thumbs were ready to fall off. After that, fighters just kind of became run of the mill for me. I'm more of a single player gamer on most accounts, and most fighting games seriously lack enough story for me to invest, but then came Injustice.
Being the DC fanboy that I am, it was a guaranteed purchase, but the great storyline, outstanding voice work, and infinite earths of variations kept it interesting for me. For those of you who may be less familiar, the games revolve around a DC timeline where Superman has gone lethally rogue, and it has pitted the entire superhero community at odds with each other. It was a storyline that was able to breathe fresh life into some semi-stale characters, and also introduce new generations of gamers to the "World's Finest" heroes. It also surprisingly sparked one of the best comic book lines DC has had in a while.
All of this made me really anticipate the sequel. On the day it was announced, I was at my local Gamestop and a promotional give away poster was revealed of Batman facing off against Flash with the tag line, "Every Battle Defines You." I just remember standing there at the register of Gamestop thinking, "That's a really solid truth," and looking forward to not only the gameplay, but how they fleshed out that concept.
I think that concept is something that we can all learn from. Many of us get caught up in winning the "wars" of our lives that we forget that every battle on the road to those wars is crucial and shapes our character and our identity. We can forget that how we choose to live, respond to, and handle each conflict we face truly does matter. If we get so caught up on the big picture that we think the steps in between don't matter, then we have already lost.
In both Injustice games, Superman has lost his perspective on the battles. He has become so blinded by the pain and distractions that he lost himself and the war. He is fighting battles he was never meant to fight and treating people as enemies he should be standing beside. He traded justice for vengeance and fear, essentially losing who he is. He went from being the icon of hope and the symbol of truth and justice, to becoming the monster Batman v Superman's Batfleck imagined him to be. Superman is, of course, initially defeated in the original Injustice, and subsequently imprisoned. With the new threat of planetary destruction, Superman's release becomes a big part of the story's narrative. He is given a second chance and a clean slate. He has the chance to show that even after falling so far, he can still be the hero he needs to be. I'm sure you, me, and the Man of Steel have all been in this place. I know personally I've fought the wrong fight before. I've been on the wrong side of a conflict, even though I
thought I was right. I've done damage to people who never deserved to be hurt by me, and I would love to have a second chance like the one Superman was given.
It's important for us as believers to have a clear understanding of what our battles are. That understanding includes knowing what battles need to be fought, what battles need to be surrendered, what battles aren't worth winning, and what battles will cost us the war. I honestly feel that sometimes we fight every fight we see instead of the ones that matter. We, like Superman, lose sight of who we are, and what we stand for. The Apostle Paul illustrates this in Ephesians 6:12 when he writes, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." We see that our battles aren't against other people. Our battles aren't against those who disagree with us or have a different perspective. Our battles are against powers in this world and the spiritual forces. It's when we forget that and choose to fight the battles that don't belong to us that we get misguided and end up like Superman.
It's so easy though to get sucked into an online argument or into a prideful need to prove we are right. We can't ever win if we are fighting the wrong battle. We can't win if we are fighting against the wrong enemy. As long as we think our battle is with people, we are going to lose. It's also easy to get caught up in other people's battles and their instigation to fight the wrong fight. In Injustice 2, just when it looks like Superman may actually redeem himself, he has Wonder Woman corrupting him. This version of Wonder Woman is a vile, deceitful, warmonger. Superman listens to her because she fuels his rage and justifies his actions rather than giving him the truth. She makes him feel like whatever fight he chooses is the right one.
In the church world, it’s very similar. If there is someone you want to pick a fight with, you are guaranteed to find someone to back you up in fighting them, and usually for the wrong reasons. We get into theological battles that won't bring anyone closer to God or the truth. We get into battles where we attack people who don't know God for acting like they don't know God. We get into fights because we think we are right and others are wrong, and it's like we can't rest until everyone agrees with us. Trust me, I get it. I see something hurtful, mean-spirited, or ignorant on the internet, and I want to react. But am I reacting because of how it makes me feel, or because it is my fight? Superman got his heart broken and his psyche shattered. Because of his pain and anguish, he decided on a new way that things should be, and anyone that disagreed with him had to be confronted and surrender to his way of thinking. That doesn't work for Superman, and it definitely won't work for Christianity.
Paul gives us a warning in 2 Timothy 2:23 about avoiding battles that aren't actually going to help us. He writes, "Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they only start fights." It's an understanding we really need to gain in our heart that before we fight a battle, we have actually assessed not only the reason we are fighting, but also the effect of our fights. Will fighting this battle further the good? Can me getting in this battle actually help? Am I causing more damage than good by fighting? If Superman had really asked himself these questions, the events of Injustice may never have happened.
We aren't much better, because in reality a lot of the arguments we get into as believers have no possibility of a positive outcome. Yet we still engage. I get Superman's rage, and his need to control things after what he went through, but I don't think he saw clearly what laid before him. We have a saying in my church that has greatly helped me weigh my options in conflicts: "Am I trying to make a point, or a difference?” Sometimes you can do both, but more often than not, if you are just fighting to show that you are right, you are going to forfeit your ability to make a difference.
When we fight our battles with the wrong weapons, we are also losing. One of the staples of Superman's character has always been his mercy. Not that he couldn't employ lethal force, but it simply wasn't part of his arsenal unless completely unavoidable. When he killed an unarmed Joker, that crossed the line. All the lives he took on his rise to power crossed the line. He lost his identity because he started using the wrong weapons.
As Christians we can be the same way, using weapons that we have no business using, like sarcasm, bitterness, condemnation, pride, hatefulness. When we employ those things, we not only lose the battle, but our identities. One of the most chilling scenes in the game comes if you choose to fight as Superman in the final conflict. He bonds with Brainiac's tech to control and enslave Batman while planning to do the same to anyone who doesn't listen to his ways. He says, "You'll either make the right choice, or I'll make it for you." The hero who once stood for freedom and justice became the embodiment of what he stood against.
When we use the weapons of our enemy, we become our enemy. This is why scripture makes it so clear that we have to abandon those ways.
"But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices." - Colossians 3:8-9.
"Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind." - 1 Peter 2:2.
Prior to writing this chapter, my daughter and I were playing Injustice and thoroughly confused our family friend, Alex. I was playing as Harley Quinn, and Rosa was as Black Canary. Alex asked, "Do you always have to play as one hero vs one villain?"
I quickly chimed, “Actually, these are both heroes. In this world Harley Quinn is basically Batman's partner and sidekick." While she still had a puzzled look on her face, I went in for the kill and told her that the actual villains of the game were Brainiac, Superman, and Wonder Woman. She asked me how that was possible, and it's the same thing I've been writing to you. We become the villain when we fight the wrong battles or fight the right battles in the wrong manner.
There are fights we will need to be in. While we do need to exercise caution, we don't need to be afraid to actually battle. God wants us to operate all of our lives, battles included, in the strength and power He gives us. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, ”For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” Fear should not play a factor for us. I think that goes both for us living in fear or inducing fear. We should never run into battle for fear or run from battle because of fear. I think that God gives us the power He does so that we can be bold. He gives us the love that He does so that we can show mercy and compassion. I also think He gives us a sound mind so we know how we should approach and deal with each conflict. Even though we don't need to fear battle, sometimes the best thing for us to do is to not fight at all.
I love this moment in Exodus:
"Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” - Exodus 14:13-14
Moses was in a tough spot. He had a huge multitude of people he was leading. There was a full army coming to attack them. Yet he didn’t tell them to fight, or to run. He told them to be still. Let God handle the battle. God then went on to tell them just to keep moving forward, and let Him handle the conflict. Sometimes that's the best thing we can do: move forward, and let God handle the conflict. When Superman faced his terrible loss, even after the Joker, he could have just moved forward, but he took the battle into his own hands. If we think we have to handle a conflict because we can't trust God to handle it, we have a problem with pride and faith that is probably much bigger than the conflict we are dealing with.
Our goal should be that in every conflict and battle we face that we can stand before God and say "I fought the good fight." Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." We want to be able to say in the end that we handled ourselves in a way that brought God honor and glory.
My oldest child, Rosa, is 10 years old. When we play Injustice, I don't hold back. I play against her like I would anyone else. I am patient with her, and I do my best to encourage her when she gets frustrated, but I give it my all. Pretty quickly, I realized that my daughter was getting better. Eventually, she became good. Like, really good. She's pretty great with Black Canary. She went into every battle knowing there was a good chance she was going to lose, but she still picked up the controller with the intention to give me her best. When we fight battles with the right heart, the right motive, and the right action there can be victories all around instead of losses.
The often quoted Psalm 27:7 states, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
When we fight our conflicts, we need to approach them with the concept of giving it our best. We need to fight not against people, but against evil. We need to fight to bring people freedom, truth, love, and not condemnation and judgement. We need to fight to make people stronger, not just to destroy them. We need to go into each conflict with others hoping that we all come out stronger.
I would love to be able to say at the end of my ministry, I had fought all my battles well. I would love to know that my name will be remembered for good and for God, not just my failures. A lot of that will be determined by the way I battle. There is a scene at the end of the good ending of Injustice 2 where Kara Zor El (Supergirl) is concerned about wearing the classic Superman symbol after all the damage Superman had done. She states, "That symbol should give people hope. He made them fear it." She recognized that Superman's choices, actions, and battles had tarnished all he stood for. His family's crest literally means hope, and he had torn it apart. She didn't want to continue to wear it and carry the weight of his shame.
When we pick fights, argue, condemn, and fail to offer grace, we do the same thing. We take the cross of Jesus Christ, the symbol of love, sacrifice, grace, and freedom, and turn it into a symbol of fear and judgement. We take the symbol of ultimate love and make it be perceived of a symbol of hate. The damage Superman did to the symbol of the House of El is what we do to the Cross of Jesus when we act that way. We have to fight the right way, so that we don't become that.
Batman responds to Supergirl with a surprising amount of grace on the matter by stating, "The symbol's meaning is up to the person who wears it." Each of us get the chance to show the world what the cross means. Each of us get the chance to show what the Christian faith truly is about. Each of us get to show what a relationship with God truly does in a person's life, and we do this not just when we speak, but in our battles.
Recently there was someone who follows me online that came at me really aggressively publicly on social media. Putting me on blast, putting Faith and Fandom on blast, and really just being overly aggressive and rude in a comments section. I tried to respond calmly and lovingly. Quickly he moved from my comments section to my inbox and continued on and on. Somewhere in the conversation, he became less aggressive, let his guard down and became more genuine. Without even trying, the conversation became ministry. It ended peacefully, even though in the beginning, I was annoyed, offended, and angry. I wanted to go for blood, but instead I was patient and tried to show as much Jesus as I could.
A week later, he asked if I would call him. He went on to explain that he was angry at God, church, and ministry over some things in his life, and that he was in the process of turning back to God. He said the catalyst to his repentance was the skirmish with me. He said the way I responded to him when he went on the offensive convicted his heart and turned him back in the direction of Jesus. I was just trying not to flip out and block him from Facebook, and God used it to bring someone back home. A fight I didn't ask for or want helped bring someone back to Jesus.
I mean it. Every battle defines you. Are we showing them that the cross means grace and forgiveness, or bullying and judgement? Every battle not only defines us, but gives the world a representation of Christ, whether good or bad. Choose your battles well. Fight your battles well. Define yourself well. Define your faith well. What will you show the world your faith actually means?