This may contain mild spoilers…
I watched Avengers:Endgame this morning with some of my kids and I did enjoy it. There are many good things to be said about the film. I particular like the way it portrays family and friendship in such a positive way. But there is one thing that has been sitting uncomfortably with me. Part way through the film Thanos (the main bad guy) gives a short speech on why he is going to change his approach to the universal problem. His new approach involves wiping out everyone because people do not love him for what he has done. It’s a sort of act of peak at how ungrateful everyone is. His new solution is to create a whole new order of life that will not remember what was before and therefore only be thankful for what they now have. The reason I think think this doesn’t sit well is because it feels like a parody of events in Genesis.
Interestingly my readings today were Genesis 6-9 and so I was looking at the reason for God’s judgement on the world. The verse that lays out the reason is Genesis 6:5
Genesis 6:5 (ESV): The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Obviously there are points of correlation but also key points of difference. God is not wiping out the world for population control but rather as a response to wickedness and evil. It has been pointed out by others that God’s justice is welcome only when it has to do with other people who we deem to be deserving of it but it seems to me that our own failures to be the people we should be point to the certainty of judgement and should sober us to divine justice.
Thanos seems to be the embodiment of capricious deity that we expect from Greek and Roman gods but a million miles away from the God of grace and mercy found in the Bible. Mercy and judgement are both necessary but the grace of God is most clearly seen against the coming wrath of God. Salvation is not an act of justice for those who are good but an act of utter kindness for sinners who are enemies.
I think I am uncomfortable with the whole thing because there is an inclination in me to re-write reality in a form I like better. We are all essentially good and we are the superheroes fighting the baddies out there. With that version of things then of course judgement seems unfair and I reject a saviour who I don’t need. But when I understand my own sinfulness, even a small amount, then it is not God’s justice that is surprising but rather God dying for me to save me from his own wrath that is.