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Becoming heroes or villains

. . . . What makes some walk the path of darkness, while others choose the light? Is it will? Is it destiny? Can we ever hope to understand the force that shapes the soul? To fight evil, one must know evil. One must journey back through time and find that fork in the road, where heroes turn one way and villains turn another.

—from Mohinder’s opening voiceover for the “Villains” episode of Heroes

I must admit, I’m intrigued with this season of Heroes. In particular, I appreciate explorations of the complexity of the human condition—why we make the choices we do and how the choices we make affect who we become.

I like Mohinder’s questions because I think they are some of those we all ask ourselves at some point or another—what makes us walk paths of light or darkness and what forces shape our souls? And one of the best articulations I’ve found of an answer to those questions come from Dallas Willard, who says:
We live from our heart.

The part of us that drives and organizes our life is not the physical. This remains true even if we deny it. You have a spirit within you and it has been formed. It has taken on a specific character. I have a spirit and it has been formed. This is true of everyone.

The human spirit is an inescapable, fundamental aspect of every human being; and it take son whichever character it has from the experiences and the choices that we have lived through or made in our past. That is what it means for it to be “formed.” (Renovation of the Heart, Chapter 1)
According to Scripture, in our part of the Story the human heart is bent and broken—though it didn’t start out that way. In the beginning of the Story, all was good and right; we were good and right, created in the image of God, inhaling his breath of life. But then we went our own way, turned away from God and it’s as if our hearts—created to thrive and grow in his grace, glory and love—broke and tore as we stepped away. We are bent that way still, to step away, torn between our own desires and those we know to be good. Even those desires we have that are good—those echoes of our creation in his image, those things like love and a longing for just-ness and right-ness—seem to be endlessly tugged and bent by the likes of selfishness, anger, fear and darkness. Left to itself, the human heart seems destined to live in a dilemma Paul articulates best: “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”

But God had a plan even as we stepped away, a promise to make it right again. He would cure that cancer that eats away at us. He would give us a Way back to those wide open spaces of his grace, glory and love, where we could bask and grow once more, where his right-ness and just-ness and love would be written on our hearts and we would once again be his people and he our God. He would restore and heal this broken world and its people.

Amazingly, unexpectedly, that Way is Jesus. Jesus took on death and our bent towards destruction and evil and won. With him, the tide turns. With him comes not only freedom but also a new life—the life we were created to live. And if we turn around and trust that Jesus is who he says and can do what he says, we’ll find that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, says Paul, is in us. And if we welcome that Spirit, says Paul, “even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms.” And that kind of life is beyond imagination: “It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child like ‘What’s next, Papa?’” It is full of healing, right-ness, peace, love, joy—so much so that as we walk with him, he spills out all of it through us into the world.

So, for those who follow Jesus, the journey becomes one of working with God to transform the heart, to learn to live in and out of the Spirit within us and become the people we were created and enabled to be—those who work with him in love towards healing, right-ness, just-ness and good. As Willard puts it:

Although every human being is formed spiritually—for better or for worse—spiritual formation for the Christian refers to the Holy Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself. To the degree spiritual formation in Christ is successful, the outer life of the individual becomes a natural expression of the character and teachings of Jesus. . . .

But, to reemphasize because it is so important, our aim is not first to act differently but to become different in our inner being. We’re not just learning how to be nicer versions of our old selves. We’re dealing radically with the fundamental wrongness of human life left to itself and introducing the kingdom of righteousness that is Christ into the depths of our heart. It is the inner life that counts. That is where profound transformation must occur. . .

Those with well-kept hearts are persons who are prepared to respond to the situations of life in ways that are good and right. They choose what is good and avoid what is evil, and as they “grow in grace,” all the components of their nature increasingly cooperate with these choices. This kind of person is not perfect, of course, but what all people manage in life sometimes, the person with the well-kept heart managers as a general rule. (Revolution of Character, excerpts from Chapters 1 and 2; emphasis is Willard's).

One of the aspects of this season of Heroes I’m appreciating is how our paths aren’t set in stone. We can make a choice to walk a different path—be it from light to darkness or from darkness to light. As the heroes and villains are aptly illustrating, the choice to move from one path to another is often not a single choice but a series of them.

So it is in our cooperation with God in transforming our hearts. It is not one single choice that suddenly transforms us but a constant series of them. The beauty of it is, the more we choose to work and walk with God, the more we become the kind of people who do the things we were created to do, choosing good and confronting evil.

Interestingly, in Heroes these choices aren’t made in a vacuum. Often others have the power to influence those decisions. I’m particularly intrigued with the power of Matt’s love to encourage and empower Daphne to turn from darkness to light. Then there’s Angela Petrelli’s declaration of love (however twisted) that (at least initially) makes Sylar reconsider his ways. On the other hand, HRG’s however well-intentioned desire to protect his daughter leads him to attempt to destroy Syler, which (if this past week’s episode is any indication) appears to have sabotaged any progress he’s made in emerging from darkness (and hastened HRG's own path).

I appreciate this exploration because we do influence each other down one path or the other. We aren’t meant to walk alone and we need each other. But we need to be aware of our own actions, choices and agendas and how they can affect others.

There’s a lot more that could be explored here, but this post is already long enough, heh. Good stuff.

(Image: NBC) heroesctgy


Never Settle said…
This is one of my favorite series. I am fascinated how their lives intertwine and how some of the characters act with good intent, only to find that it was actually very wrong.

There are so many parts of their struggles that I can relate to on a personal level. Being reminded of Paul's words regarding his own inner battles, gives me strength.

Thank you, again, for your insightful posts.