“We are Groot” — a kingdom image

Aug 12, 2014 by

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Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest addition to Marvel’s franchise, and it is an eclectic mix. It has the saddest and most moving opening of a blockbuster sci-fi movie since J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek, and yet it is as full of quips and wit as Joss Whedon’s cleverly-dialogued Avengers. It has a bazillion homages to great sci-fi films, but it still feels like its own story — complete with a fully believable walking, talking tree creature and a wise-cracking raccoon.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

And smack dab in the middle of all this? One of the more unusual kingdom images I’ve collected thus far.

(Warning: some spoilers ahead)

A common theme in comic book movies is a disparate group of people coming together to form not just an association but a new community or family. In the X-Men films, it is a group of mutants; in Avengers, it is a group of superheroes. In Guardians, it is a group of people written off by the galaxy: Peter Quill is a smuggler and thief whose mother died when he was a child. Gamora is an orphan trained to be an assassin who’s seeking redemption by working against the evil Ronan. Drax is a warrior seeking revenge for the death of his wife and daughter who were killed by Ronan. Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon who is tortured by the memory of experiments performed on him, is a bounty hunter. And then there’s Rocket’s partner, Groot, a kind but fierce humanoid tree creature whose language is confined to three words — “I am Groot.”

While their association begins with a mission to collect a handsome payoff for a mysterious artifact, bonds begin to develop between them. When they discover the artifact could destroy the galaxy and it falls into Ronan’s hands, Quill asks the rest of them to help him get it back so that countless others will be spared annihilation.

“You’re asking us to die,” Rocket tells him, giving them all pause.

Yet, each of them has had a taste of what it feels like to have friendship and family — something none of them have ever had. And that taste is enough for them to risk their lives so that others they don’t even know will have a chance to live.

At one point, after a long battle, they are facing certain death. Groot begins to extend and twine himself around them in a sphere to protect them — a gesture that risks his own life. When Rocket asks why Groot is willing to die for them, Groot responds, “We are Groot.”

Groot no longer sees himself as an individual. The lives of his friends are now enfolded into his own. The well-being of each of them is not only equivalent to but above his own because this family is now his identity.

I find this a crazily wonderful echo of life in the Kingdom, where God’s people are called and enable to be this kind of “we.” A family of disparate brothers and sisters whose lives are intricately interwoven. A family of brothers and sisters who now willingly lay down their lives for each other, who no longer see themselves as independent individuals but whose identity is now a “we” — a family rooted in Jesus, who said: “This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Lay down your life for your friends. If you love one another like this, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 15:11-15 and John 13:34, mix of The Message and NIV).

It makes sense that we will be known as Jesus’ disciples if we live as a “we” who loves like this because that is the kind of union and love from which we are fashioned. This is the kind of “we” and love shared among the Father, Son and Spirit. And if we are rooted in Jesus, this is the kind of “we” and love of which we are capable. This is the kind of “we” and love that strengthens, saves and restores. This is the kind of “we” in which God, as Dallas Willard puts it, “is tangibly manifest to everyone on earth who wants to find him.”

I admit, I wasn’t looking for an image that reminded me of kingdom life when I walked into this movie — and, if I were, I certainly wouldn’t have expected to find it in a tree-like creature that can only speak three words. But those three words remind me of what kingdom life is like — and that brings God-talk into these open spaces.

Carmen Andres of Alexandria, Va., is a former editor of Christian Leader, the magazine of the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. She writes here, where this blog post originally appeared.

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