JOE LAGUARDIA: Rather than seek revenge, make room for God to work inside of us

Throughout the school year, I order my life around the Christian calender. That calendar begins with Advent and ends with Holy Trinity Sunday. But in the summer, I order my life around the blockbuster movie schedule.With many movies to watch -- from "Battleship" to "Batman" -- I'm having a blast counting down from one movie to the next. But, popcorn aside, these kinds of blockbusters make me wonder about peace, war and violence in general.

Over the past two decades, we've seen a resurgence of superhero movies that follow a predictable story line. Superhero wrestles with self and world, doubts whole enterprise, turns vigilante, saves the world.

It's great stuff for summer, but I'm always left wondering where God is in all of this. Of course, God gets one line in "The Avengers." As two demigods fight, one Avenger warns another Avenger: "You don't want to interfere -- they are like gods, you know!" The other one responds, "I only know of one God, and he doesn't look like that." Cue applause in our local Conyers movie house.

He's is right: God doesn't look like that. According to the Bible, God calls us to love our enemies and be at peace with others. We are not avengers, but are to "leave room for God's wrath" (Romans 12:19).

In his letter to the Romans, Paul echoes Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) when he encourages the churches in Rome -- those little communities filled with conflict -- to start acting like the Christians they were called to be.

To God, they are to give all of who they are as an act of worship (Romans 12:1-2). In church, they are to "let love be genuine" (Romans 12:9). In the world, they should "live in harmony" and "bless those who persecute you... and do not curse them" (Romans 12:14).

These are hard challenges because when someone is persecuting, annoying, harassing, or badmouthing us, our first instinct is not to bless. Cursing just comes too easily; blessings are for people who sneeze.

The Bible encourages us to walk a different path because, at the end of the day, we have much more in common with our enemy than we like to admit. "We still wage war," preached William Sloane Coffin, "because we are still at war with ourselves." The darkness we see in others is only but a mirror of the darkness that we still have in our own hearts.

I realized this not too long ago when I became impatient at a grocery store. The deli clerk was in a bad mood and was rude. I got annoyed. She got annoyed. When I left and was walking to my car, I saw a bumper sticker that read, "America can't fix stupid."

I laughed awkwardly because I realized how ironic the sticker was: We always think we're the smart ones! "Be not proud," Paul writes, "Do not repay evil for evil." Humbling words for sure.

If that wasn't hard enough, Paul writes that we are to meet the needs of our enemies (Romans 12:20) and make room for repentance. When we make room for God and repentance to work rather than seek revenge, we make room for God to work in us.

The best way to defeat an enemy is to make your enemy a friend. Besides, we all have something in common: we are human and imperfect. Better we celebrate that fact then end up killing each other in the long run.

This weekend "Batman" will likely become the next cash cow; so, we need to be reminded that, although movies may be fun to watch, in real life we are called to love others because God is love.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. E-mail him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.