My Empathy for Bruce Banner

It was a normal Wednesday night, nothing out of the ordinary. We had just sat down with a group of young people to discuss the pressures of social media. It was all going well until I was stopped dead in my tracks;

“If I shagged 3 girls in one night, I’d be a legend!” exclaimed one of them.

It caught me off guard. Initially, my reaction was one of disgust and disappointment, “How dare he say that!?” I caught myself rhetorically arguing. “Doesn’t he see the girls beside him!? And anyway, what’s that got to do with Social Media?”

But I’d failed to see that he was using this brash statement to highlight the polarising reactions toward the actions of males compared to the reactions toward the actions of females, particularly on social media.

It was then that I began to empathise with Bruce Banner.

In that moment, as I continued to reflect, my disagreement toward the outburst was actually morphing into agreement, and I regretted it. Yet, there was almost nothing I could do to stop it. I didn’t want to agree that this was actually the case. That there was an ounce of truth to what was being shared. But, like Bruce Banner fighting against his anger changing him into an uncontrollable raging lunatic, there was nothing I could to stop it, because it’s true.

In a time where women seem to have more equal opportunity than ever, there still appears to be an undercurrent of sexism whereby a man upon completing a one night stand is saluted as a ‘legend’, as if it’s equal to achieving a headshot in Call of Duty. Meanwhile, the girl caught up in the mix is held in much less regard, seen as the opposition whom he has just slain with his weapon. She is labelled with much more derogatory words such as terms that rhyme with ‘bag’ and ‘putt’.

Unfortunately, without swathes of women standing up for such inequality, this is a cultural understanding that might continue to go unchallenged. Which got me thinking, what other things that are cultural norms, go unchallenged? And more specifically, how as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus, do we challenge prevailing worldview’s? Ultimately, we must do this in love, but what does it actually look like?

How do we make the change?

What I want to encourage is this; We need to re-discover that we are Gods agents of change.

I think we’ve lost some of our identity through the event driven culture of our churches and faith organisations. (This isn’t to say that these are not good things, but we must see them as complimentary, like a tomato on a burger, rather that the burger itself). If we’re not careful, we can be guilty of placing too much emphasis on those times that we go away with our youth groups or churches to christian conferences. Our relationship with Jesus becomes about survival, “I just can’t wait to encounter God at [fill in the blank].”

However, the reality is that at the end of Jesus’ time with his disciples, his parting words to them, his closest friends, were: “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life… I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day.”

There are two things that sticks out to me here. The first is that two letter word “GO”. To ‘GO’ is to STOP being still. To ‘GO’ is to move. To ‘GO’ is to be active. I think what Jesus is getting at here is that we must always be prepared to actively engage with what God wants us to do.

The second is Jesus’ promise at the end, “I will always be with you.” This is reality, this is something we can be totally sure of, that Jesus is always with us, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute.

So how does this relate to my empathy with Bruce Banner?

Well You and I, as followers of Jesus, have been given a mission. To go and help others follow Jesus and become more and more like Him every day. I’d like to suggest that we don’t do this by inviting friends to the next event so that they might encounter Jesus, but by having confidence that Jesus wants to meet with our friends withiin the very space of our relationships.

As far as I see it, Jesus spent around three years walking, talking, eating, discussing and having fun with his Disciples. He was incredible at spending each and every day with those same twelve. Which tells me that the friendships that we create with each other actually open up the ability to share, discuss and challenge the stereotypical worldview’s of our peers, and to model Jesus within that dialogue, to introduce His worldview into our own.

Three Questions:

1) Who are those around you today that you call friends?

2) How are you expecting Jesus to encounter them through your relationship with them?

3) How are you expecting Jesus to encounter you through your relationship with him?

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