Do you remember the 2005 movie, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Jane Smith?
The movie was a box office hit and also sparked a real-life relationship between Pitt and Jolie.
The movie opens with the two in marriage counseling. John tries to explain that they’re nothing seriously wrong with their relationship, but after a quick “check under the hood,” it’s apparent the two have found themselves in the midst of a dull, boring, and extremely fake marriage.
Five or six years ago they had met randomly in a hotel lobby while on vacation and had fallen for one another almost immediately and were engaged after just six weeks.
(Side note—quick engagements are usually a predictor of problems to come)
Despite the initial fireworks, the relationship had ground to a boring, monotonous halt of painful predictability, which is what apparently brought them into counseling.
And as we later learn, their upper-middle-class-white-suburban life was simply a cover for a life of secrets and lies.
Turns out, they are both living a double life as assassins, unbeknownst to each other, and after an awkward dinner—they soon realize what they had each suspected is true—they each are assassins.
After the spilling of wine, they each run in different directions. John goes for a gun and we soon hear squealing tires outside as Jane drives away.
John runs outside to chase her down, though his motives aren’t entirely clear.
Ducking and dodging through lawn sprinklers, sports equipment, and toys, John runs into a white picket fence and accidentally shoots a bullet right through the windshield of Jane’s car.
Any hopes of reconciliation are crushed right then and there.
Despite trying to say it was an “accident,” the damage is done.
For the next 30 minutes of the movie, the couple is engaged in an epic battle of trying to off the other person that ultimately ends up with the two squaring off in their own home, practically destroying it completely in the ensuing battle.
What I enjoy about this movie is how well it dramatizes the way conflicts blow-up in a relationship or marriage.
It’s reminiscent of what so often happens in relationships once the initial spark wears off. Two people often fall into this track of predictability, putting up with the other while harboring resentment and mistrust over the state of the relationship.
And, with all this bottled-up anger and hurt, when the top comes off, the results are often explosive.
Interestingly enough, I remember watching the director’s commentary several years back and he talked about how the movie was basically an allegory for marriage—and the accidental discharge of John’s gun symbolic of how one flippant remark can lead to a destructive conflict.
Now unless you’re living a secret life like Mr. or Mrs. Smith, most of us here are likely far more experienced with the allegorical understanding of this movie than we are with the literal understanding; namely, our words can have a violent emotional impact on another in whom we are in relationship with.
And, while I understand this movie is certainly hetero-normative, I think the basic principles extend far beyond just the white-upper-middle class context of the movie.
Whether its ours spouse, our partner, our sibling, our parent, or even a co-worker or employee, at some point we’ve all likely found ourselves either the victim of some violent words or the perpetrator—and in reality—we’ve probably been on both the giving and receiving end at different times in our lives.
We all know how it easy it is, when we’re angry, when we’re confused, when we’re lonely to let something slip.
Maybe, in the moment, we really didn’t even mean to say it, it was an accident.
But that’s the danger of running around with a loaded weapon, like John does in the movie.
When we trip on something unexpected, the proverbial gun can go off, and we can’t ever take back what was said.
And from that point, all bets are off. It’s killed or be killed. Metaphorically of course!
Often we go off to our separate corners like in a boxing match.
Remember, John goes to spend the night at this buddy’s house, just as one would expect a guy to do, and Jane goes out with her girlfriends to lament the situation (it’s all an allegory remember).
And we all know what happens in situations like this.
At this point, it’s a runaway freight train, demolishing anything it its way, leaving destruction in its wake.
Let me stop here just to be abundantly clear. (Disclaimer)
As much as I’m speaking of violence metaphorically, if ever you find yourself in a situation where you find yourself in literal danger do to the verbal, emotional, or physical abuse of a spouse, partner, or family member, please do what you need to do to stay safe in the moment until you can make your way to safety.
For far too long in too many churches, pastors have often looked the other way in matters of domestic violence, chalking it up as simply a martial dispute, and worse, often encouring wives to “stick it out” and “submit to an abusive husband “for the sake of the marriage.” This is not okay. This is never okay.
At Missiongathering, we will always advocate for the health and safety of anyone in danger of domestic abuse or violence. I want to be clear on this.
And the reason I find the metaphor of this movie so compelling is because it so aptly illustrates the real and powerful effects our words can have on a partner or spouse.
Thanks to anti-bullying efforts in schools, we’ve begun to talk as a society about the dangers words can have on people.
Yet in some ways, we’ve not taken this lesson to heart in our own relationships, with disastrous consequences.
Whether a marriage, a romantic partner, or any kind of relationship—once things have gotten this far, once our words have been fashioned into weapons, mutual destruction is often inevitable.
And while reconciliation is not impossible, in many ways, it seems the threat of violence always hangs over the relationship. Those memories still sit and the back of one’s mind, those words are holstered and ready, ready to draw at a moment’s notice if needed.
How can stop what seems like an unstoppable freight-train?
How can we keep our relationships from forever been damaged, destroyed, divorced?
I’d like to call our attention this morning to an ancient prophet named Isaiah.
Isaiah lived several hundred years before the time of Jesus, in a country awash in turmoil.
The threat of literal violence and destruction to his country was almost overwhelmingly bad and the national leaders didn’t know what to do about it.
Amidst all the stress and anxiety the prophet speaks a word of hope, a vision of a future peace spoken also by other ancient religious leaders.
Let’s read the text (Isaiah 2:1-5).
In this dream, God’s dream, all people from all nations comes together to learn the ways of God and live justly and equitably. They beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, committing not to go to war ever again—nor to learn the ways of war.
So far removed the time and place in which these words were first given, such an image seems almost fanciful, mystical, impossible.
And given the ridiculous thought of nations in our own time melting down and tearing apart tanks and planes and bombs and turning them into tractors, combines, and grain silos in order to feed the world’s hungry—
Equally shocking was the idea to these people long ago that a world without the threat of violence and destruction was God’s dream for the world.
But the point of this fanciful dream wasn’t to convince everyone to turn over their guns and join a hippie commune…
No, the goal was to convince the people of one foundational truth.
Nations will always be in conflict unless God’s ways are recognized.
Not until we are willing to put down our weapons of war and walk in God’s ways of love and justice will the fighting end.
The same principle holds true in our relationships.
Our relationships will always be in conflict until God’s ways are recognized.
See, this is the thing. I believe that Isaiah’s dream for his people is also the dream for our relationships.
God’s dream of peace, of justice, of love for the world—are the same things God wants for you and your relationships.
Maybe you’re here today, and the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith seems like a biography of your relationship, of your family, of your workplace.
The idea of everyone coming together in a spirit of peace, love, and mutuality seems as fanciful and far-off as does this prophecy from long ago.
When you’re in the midst of the battle, when the spears and the arrows are flying back and forth between you and your spouse, your partner, your family member; how can you turn those weapons of war into tools of love?
Isaiah shows the way.
Verse 5. “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. Let us learn the ways of God. Let us walk in his paths.
The way of God, I believe, is love.
Love is the way.
Remember in the movie, in the midst of their bullet-ridden house, Jane and John find themselves face-to-face, gunpoint-to-gunpoint, faced with a decision; kill or be killed.
But, remembering his love for Jane, he puts down his weapon. As done Jane.
We often find ourselves in a similar situation.
Standing face to face, our weapon of words armed and ready, we’re ready to pull the trigger.
We’ve got to choose the ways of God, the ways of love for ourselves.
We’ve got to put down our weapons of war, and instead beat those weapons into plowshares, doing the hard and difficult work of turning and tiling the soil of our own hearts and minds so that we no longer produce anger and violence but instead love and compassion.
For some of us, that may simply mean remembering our love for our partner, friend, or family member.
For some of us, that may mean going to counseling alone or with our partner, seeking to do the hard work often required to improve our relationship.
For some of us, that may mean choosing to respond in love and grace when others hurl violent words at us.
One thing I know for sure, violence cannot bring peace.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
This is God’s dream for the world—yes, for the whole world.
The same love that can heal the brokenness is our relationships is the love that can heal the brokenness in our world.
Love for our spouse, love for our partner, love for our family.
Love for the immigrant, love for the Muslim, love for the stranger.
It’s really up to us. The choice is yours and mine.
What world do we want for ourselves, our families, our children?
Recall in the movie how the home of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is ultimately destroyed, blown apart by a hand grenade and a barrel of heating oil.
And while Mr. and Mrs. Smith were lucky enough to survive the blast, real life isn’t the movies.
Our actions have consequences.
Continuing to wield weapons of war, whether literal or metaphorical, will have the same outcome for ourselves and our relationships as they will for our world—death and destruction.
God invites us to live a different way, a way of peace and justice, a way of love for all.
The choice is ours.
Whether to reside on the holy mountain of God or to sit amongst the rubble of our destroyed home.
Yes, I know for those of us who have only known violence and destruction in our relationships, such a vision of hope and love seems fanciful at best, but the light of God, the love of God continually burns bright, inviting us, our relationships, our families, our world into a better way of love.
The future belongs to God, but the first step toward that future belongs to those who have glimpsed God’s light and are willing to trust that enough light lies ahead.
Come, let us walk in the light of the love of God.
 Bruce Birch.
 Stacey Simpson Duke