This weekend, I laughed, cried, and danced my way through Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Just like its predecessor, this movie hit all the right notes of fun, adventure, comedy, and nerdery that made me love Volume 1. And it’s all set to a killer soundtrack of favorites like Looking Glass’s “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” The sequel also shared thematic territory with its predecessor as it focused on the quest for family. Like so many films and TV shows of our day, Guardians’ characters have deeply troubled relationships with their blood relatives, and so must find a new family within their zany friend group. This theme is so common across modern film and TV that it seems like it must reflect a deep longing within our culture for community and belonging. Watching the friends-as-family theme play out in the latest Marvel movie reminded me that such community and belonging ought to be available in the local church. Here are 3 ways Guardians of the Galaxy shows us what church looks like:
1. One Body, Many Parts
The Guardians gang is made up of a group of misfits. Each member is somehow out of place on the home world — and even out of place in the whole universe. Each struggles individually with identity. But together, the traits that make them outcasts make them a strong team as each one fulfills their unique role. Likewise, the church should strive to be a place where those who feel they do not belong are loved and accepted and where each member, with his or her unique giftings and callings, can contribute in a manner that complements the giftings and callings of the other members of the church.
2. Unity of Purpose
The guardians of the galaxy are united around a single purpose — that would be guarding the galaxy, of course. No matter how much the individual team members fight and bicker, when the fate of the universe is on the line, they act as a unit for the greater good. Christians find their unity around the purpose of advancing God’s Kingdom. Despite our differences, we must unite around the Kingdom goal.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, the main characters argue a lot. They get grumpy with one another. They say careless things. I’m not advocating fighting and name-calling, of course! But here’s the thing about family: no matter how different the ragtag group of guardians are, at the end of the day, they have each others’ backs, because that’s how family works. That’s how the church should work, too. How often do we allow our differences — be they denominational, political, or preferential — to divide us? More concerningly, how often do such differences result in public renunciations in the form of a hasty tweet or disdainful blog entry? What if, instead of further separating ourselves based on differences in non-essential beliefs, we gave one another the benefit of the doubt and went out of our way to demonstrate love for each other? That kind of love could show Jesus to a watching world.
Guardians feels like what I wish church could be: a place to belong as we fight against evil with love — all set against a super cool soundtrack. You’d be hard pressed to find any church music that feels as cool and fun as the classic rock song, “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl).” But let’s start with love. If God can bring love and unity among those of us misfits who have stumbled together into church community, then anything is possible.