I am big fan of fantasy and science fiction stories. True, I love almost any well-written story, but when I have my choice, I reach for the stuff with dragons or spaceships on the cover. And if there’s one thing any good fantastical story needs, it’s a good villain. I don’t mean a villain who is morally good, I mean a villain who is so compelling, so intriguing, and so convincingly wicked that you just can’t help but turn the next page to find out how he’s going to get his comeuppance. You know who I’m talking about – Sauron, the Emperor, the White Witch, Arawn of Annuvin.
I think what captivates me is the idea that I can step into the shoes of the hero who overcomes the villain. I can imagine how I would meet the challenge, and I can celebrate with the hero the victory as good triumphs over evil. As I imagine, I can begin to think about the challenges and villains in my own life and – maybe even just subconsciously – figure out ways to overcome them.
So who are the villains in my life? Who are the villains in your life? Who is the super evil, arch-nemesis villain who consistently is at the center of every diabolical plan that has ruined your day, your year, or your life?
If you’re like me, you are probably tempted to point the finger of blame. Maybe it’s a person who constantly grieves you. Maybe it’s an entity that you feel is corrupt to its core. Probably at the extreme you want to just blame the devil and let it be known that if not for him, your life would be peachy.
But have you ever read one of those stories where the real villain is not some boogey man but actually someone familiar? Maybe it’s a fellow countryman, a relative, a friend, or a mentor. For instance, in Lord of the Rings while Sauron is the big bad guy, the real villain that hounds the story is Gollum, a creature that was once a Hobbit, just like Frodo. And there’s Saruman, the good-wizard-turned-bad whose betrayal facilitated some of the biggest disasters for the Fellowship. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, sorry, but I love the Lord of the Rings and I think it serves as an excellent example of literature).
The thing about those stories is that even with the big bad guy out of the picture, those close-to-home villains are still bad. Evil doesn’t disappear just because the evil mastermind is defeated. That’s a major theme of many stories, that evil is never so easily defeated.
Well, in the same way, this is our reality as well. What if God completely destroyed the devil? What if he locked him up forever and took away all his power to tempt you and effect the world in any way? Do you think you’d wake up and have no more problems? Do you think your life would just be peachy?
You know it wouldn’t. I know it wouldn’t. Because even without the devil, you and I still have a problem.
It’s you. It’s me.
I’m the real villain of my story.
The fact is, Jesus did take away the devil’s power. The devil can tempt me all he wants, he can’t make me sin. The devil can try all he wants to make my life miserable, God will still make it turn out for my good. So why do I still have problems?
Because I’m the villain of my story.
I can’t be the hero. I don’t have what it takes. I can’t overcome the challenges, I can’t save the day. The best I can hope for is the tragic death, where I am consumed by my villainous nature and bring about my own ruin.
But you know which villains I find the most compelling, the most attractive, the most interesting? It’s the villains who don’t meet a tragic and horrible end, but who find redemption in the end. The ones who are known for all their wickedness and are loved anyway. The ones the hero will risk everything, even his own life, to rescue. Darth Vader. Gnag the Nameless. You. Me.
See, the real hero of the story is Jesus. He saw us, in all our wickedness, and he loved us. He put everything on the line, sacrificed his life to redeem us.
I don’t think we’re always so comfortable with this notion. We still want to be part of the solution. We want to be part of the heroism. But we’ll only really understand what it means to be redeemed if we first see that we are the villains. Then we can let the hero be the hero.