Punisher: War Zone was a comic book series (with the same name as the movie and various older series') that started in 2012. It was set to take place right after The Punisher #16, where the Punisher and Rachel Cole-Alves crossed the line in killing some of the boys in blue.
Rachel is captured and put on trial while Frank Castle (The Punisher) is moved to the top of the Avengers' "Most Wanted" list. While Frank had always been seen by the freaks in tights as a problem for the police to deal with, a rogue civilian who should be easy-enough to manage, he is now seen as a terrorist-like threat who must be stopped.
In issue #1, Spider-Man faced Frank and failed. In issue #2, the Black Widow hunted Castle down and faced him. But, she sympathized with his goal and let him go. Now, in issue #3 of this 5-part series, it's Thor's turn to stop this one-man army.
But, things didn't turn out how one may expect. Just as Black Widow had done in the last comic book, Thor began to hunt down his prey. While interrogating a weapons-trafficker in the forest of Indonesia, a searing blase erupted killing his witness along with his caravan. Thor had been used as bait.
Immediately, the god of thunder flew after the source of the blast, the Punisher. But, Frank tricked Thor once again, by leading him into the midst of a armory and an airfield where none should be. Thor sees the men that Frank's after and takes them all out with one ground-exploding lightning hammer-blast. The only two people left standing are Frank and himself. Frank reaches for his gun. And, Thor says, "No. This battle is ended, I said. I will resolve this. Then we shall speak." just before he punches the mortal's lights out.
Thor: You do drink, don't you?
Thor: Sometimes is better than never. Ale is one of the pleasures of life....
Thor: Or have you abandoned all life in pursuit of your war, Punisher?
Punisher: The war is my life.
Thor: Then you fight for nothing.
"Drink with me."
Thor: I have things I would say to you, Frank Castle. I hope that you will listen.
Frank: Not giving me much of a choice.
Thor: Your arms await you when we're done.
"You have many choices. It is the wisdom of them I wish you to consider."
Thor: I know you, Punisher. I know you very well indeed.
Frank: You don't know me at all.
Thor: I know your madness.
"Your life is battle, and nothing more. This world is your battlefield, and nothing else. The blood roars in your ears and the song of it plays in your heart. What began in pain and rage is now lost in that sound."
There it is. The point. The punchline. The resolution. Thor needs the Punisher to see something that's going to hurt. He needs the Punisher to see who and what he has become. Frank needs to know that he has crossed the line. The hero has become the villain. And, as it hits him, it hits me.
As I looked back, I became appalled at what I had done.
In my words, actions, and deeds, I had become someone else. But, not in a good way.
I don't know when exactly it started. Yet, somehow it had.
For a while now, I've been outspoken. I've shared my opinion on a bunch of important topics. I had called out for the truth in a room full of lies. But, while I had done this, I shared no remorse. I had no regret. And, I spared no compassion.
Although what I had said or debated had been definitely important, I had forgotten to see both sides. I had became more concerned with getting my opinion across than ever even hearing their's let alone actually care about the other person.
"I stood before twenty thousand Christian college students and asked, 'How many of you have read the New Testament and wondered if we in the church are missing it?'... Almost every hand went up." Francis Chan's Crazy Love.
Every day I see it.
We walk around with blind-sides on.
No matter how humble our cause may be, such as becoming a teacher, preacher, or counselor, we fail to retain what is important. As we become buried in books, studies, tests, and quizzes, lectures, sermons, writings, and business, we lose who we really are. Our life fades away behind our careers and compassions. Our fight for our future becomes our life, making it so that we have nothing left to fight for.
Those people that we had set out to help, our family, friends, and neighbors, fall away to the side. They get trampled by our busy schedule and our (meaningless) tasks.
"I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was a stranger and you did not welcome me,
naked and you did not clothe me,
sick and in prison
and you did not visit me."
"Truly, I say to you,
as you did not do it
to one of the least of these,
you did not do it to me."
"Depart from me, you cursed,
into the eternal fire
and his angels."
All of these things seem trivial. None of them are too hard. But, all of them are easy to forget. This is what Martin Luther was adamant about when discussing monasticism. They were too busy "leading pious lives" to lead pious lives. They were so focused on studying Christianity that they had neglected to practice it.
“This is what our monks do. They have gone about making faces at all who lie in their sins, and have thought: Oh, but this is a worldly fellow! He does not concern us. If, now, he really would be pious, let him put on the monk's cowl!'
Hence it is for that reason that such hypocrites cannot refrain from despising those who are not like them. They are puffed up over their own life and conduct, and cannot advance far enough to be merciful to sinners. This much they do not know, that they are to be servants, and that their piety is to be of service to others. Moreover, they become so proud and harsh that they are unable to manifest any love. They think: This peasant is not worthy to unloose the latchet of my shoes; therefore do not say that I am to show him any affection'.
But at this point God intervenes, permitting the proud one to receive a severe fall and shock that he often becomes guilty of such sins as adultery, and at times does things even worse, and must afterwards smite himself, saying: 'Keep still, brother, and restrain yourself, you are of precisely the same stuff as yonder peasant'. He thereby acknowledges that we are all chips of the same block.”
The war for the truth, the war for scholasticism, and the war for piety often leave those we (should) care about the most trampled in the dust.
Have we become the enemy?
We did't want to. But, have we?
Hhmmmm.... Before we answer that, we need to know who we are.
"And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians."
The disciples of Christ didn't coin the term to boast of their pride in the Lord or reveal their piety to strangers. In fact, they didn't coin the term at all. It was a term given to them not by their own doing. But, by those around them. The people on the outside looking in realized that these guys were kinda different. They lived, loved, and acted as if Christ himself lived inside them. They seemed Christian.
And, they were Christian. "Let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." They weren't just Christian by their word, but by their actions. They lived lives that proved that God dwelled among them. "The love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." This one loving action was enough to inspire the love in the lives of those who followed Him.
"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." This one act of love was powerful enough not only to inspire the love in the lives of us Christians, but to also cover our multitude of sin. This limitless love made up for all of those times that we have forgot and will forget to love each other. "If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." "If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."
If we stay true to who we are, if we keep on course, then this love should be easy for us. We have so much grace, mercy, and love given to us that it only makes sense for it to overflow onto others. It is not our works which save us, but our Lord who also continues to work through us.
"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."
"This is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us."
"Whoever loves God must also love his brother."
This battle has ended. God has resolved it.
We have become the enemy countless times. Over and over again, we fail to be who we truly are. "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar."
But, in Christian lives, God's love must flow through us. Although we may fret over whether or not we have fed, clothed, or cared for our neighbor, we can be certain that God's love working through us has already taken care of that. Although we might not remember, we will know, "As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
From the simplest kindness of sitting down and talking together, grabbing a drink, or giving advice, to providing clothes, food, and shelter to someone we do not know, God's love works through us because he lives in us.
We might need to be sucker-punched or knocked-out once in a while to shatter our false-piety and pride; in order to remind us of who we are and where we come from; to tell us that "the in-between moments" can be the most important; and to help us understand that although we often become the enemy, we can still turn back.
I'm not telling you that you need to end your war. But, I am warning you so that you do not lose the things you're fighting for; so that you do not forget who you are; so that you do not lose track of where you're going; and so that you remember who you're fighting for.
"Let all that you do be done in love." 1 Cor. 16:14.
"Let all that you do be done in love." 1 Cor. 16:14.