Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Ethics of Batman Begins

Suggested Reading: Mark 2:23-3:6

The movie Batman Begins relaunched the adventures of the Dark Knight in a much more compelling fashion than the Batman movies of the previous decade. At one point in the movie, a young Bruce Wayne has missed his chance for revenge against his parents' murderer. A childhood friend, who is also Batman's love interest, shows him a place where everyone knows the city's biggest crime boss hangs out but adds that no one will touch him. She makes this statement (paraphrased), "All it takes for evil to win is for the good people to do nothing."

In Mark chapter three, Jesus finds himself in a setup by the Pharisees. A man with a withered hand is in the synagogue while Jesus is teaching. Jesus had already taught that human life was more important than religious regulation, including the observance of the Sabbath, and now the Pharisees were watching how Jesus would respond to this man's presence. Would Jesus really break the Sabbath in order to heal someone? But Jesus turned the test around on the Pharisees by asking them a question: "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm? To save a soul or to destroy it?" (Mark 3:4, HCSB). By asking this question, Jesus reminded the Pharisees of their own traditions and interpretations of the law which equated the refusal to do good with doing evil.

We often hear people make the statement, "I'm not that bad," and we agree with them because they don't kill or steal or cheat people. But we cannot judge ourselves by the evil things we avoid doing. Jesus basically said that to choose not to do good when we have the ability to do good is evil. The book of James actually spells it out for us. "So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it" (James 4:17, HCSB).

We cannot judge ourselves solely by the evil things we don't do. We must also judge ourselves by the number of chances we have to do good and how often we actually take those chances. How often do we see someone stranded on the side of the road and choose to ignore them? How often do we see someone in need and choose not to share what we have? How often do we see the defenseless attacked and do nothing to defend them? How often do we fail to pass on the vital lessons of the faith because we're too tired to bother?

As followers of Christ, it is never enough that we simply avoid committing evil acts. We must never refuse to do the good we are capable of doing. Choosing not to act when we are capable of doing good, Jesus argued, was the same thing as doing evil.

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