Romans 7:15 and Wreck-It-Ralph
My wife and I recently took our grandson to see the movie Wreck-It-Ralph. For those unfamiliar with the plot, the movie takes place inside a video game where Wreck-It-Ralph is the “bad guy” whose character is programmed to wreck the building and home of the Nicelanders, who, at least to Ralph, aren’t very nice. Fix-it-Felix is the hero of the game who fixes what Ralph breaks with just a touch from his golden hammer.
Unhappy in his role as the bad guy, Ralph visits “Bad Anon,” the support group for “bad guys” and villains of all the video games, where they end every meeting by saying together, “I’m bad and that’s good. I’ll never be good and that’s not bad. There is no one I would rather be than me.” But, one night, Ralph leaves his game land in search of a gold medal from another video game that will make him the “good guy” and hero he’s always desired to be. I won’t tell you the end of the story. But, after I finished the movie, I couldn’t help but think about the Wreck-It-Ralph in all of us, and especially those in prison.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to you that many prisoners spend most of their lives making a wreck of things. What may surprise you is that they aren't all as happy as you might expect in their respective roles as the Wreck-It-Ralph of their family or community. Many of them are quite frustrated, and much of what they do–sex, drugs, alchohol, stealing, etc.–are ways in which they are searching for the gold medal that will make them good.
Paul said, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” Romans 7:15. I know that most people believe Paul is describing the normal, Christian experience in the context of this verse (vv. 14-25). Personally, I hold to the view that Paul is describing the everyday experience of a non-Christian (albeit one who is about to experience a dramatic conversion in v.25). Like Wreck-It-Ralph, the guy Paul is describing wants to be the good guy, but he just can't seem to change. He can't help but make a mess of things.
Not too long ago I was having a conversation with a pastor I know who is also involved in prison ministry. He was having a hard time understanding why some men seem to “get it” and others don’t. What do men who don't get it have in common with Wreck-It-Ralph? The answer is that, apart from the salvation that is found in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to change us, we are all born bad guys. We are all born in sin. We are all born Wreck-It-Ralphs, and we make a mess out of everything we touch, until Jesus (aka Fix-it-Felix) touches us, and rebuilds what we have destroyed.
Now I know the makers of Wreck-It-Ralph didn’t intend to create an opportunity for you to explain the gospel to your children or to counsel those who come to you. Deeper thinkers than me will see far more sinister, subtle implications behind the words, “I’m bad and that’s good.” They might suggest that the words are reminiscent of the Scripture that says there will come a day, and many say is now here, when people will call what is clearly bad good, and vice versa. But I see in this movie a way to help us understand our ministry to those in prison–those on their way, those struggling with habitual sin in one form or another, etc., and a way to explain the gospel.
First, we must recognize that just because people are sinning, even habitually, we must not assume they are being who they want to be. For this reason alone, our hearts must be filled with compassion for their struggle. And, if we are honest, we must see somewhat of that same struggle in all of our hearts and minds, in one area or another. There's a Wreck-It-Ralph in all of us. Second, we must remember that only Christ sets men free, and He does so in His own timing (John 3:8).
Toward the end of the movie, Fix-It-Felix went in search of Wreck-It-Ralph, and Wreck-It-Ralph learned that he must have the help of Fix-It-Felix. The gospel is that we make a mess out of things running from God, destroying everything in our path, until we learn to say, “I’m bad and that’s good” because now, realizing my need, it is far easier to trust in Jesus, my Savior and my God. And if it takes making a mess out of everything until we come to the place where we see our need for the Savior, then praise God for the Wreck-It-Ralph in all of us! And praise God for our Savior, who with His own hammer drove the nails through Himself that saved us from sin and self!
Posted on May 31, 2014