“Sometimes the most important battle, is the battle within…”
Ryu is one of the most well known video game characters, right up with the likes of Mario and Megaman. He made his first appearance in the 1987 arcade game “Street Fighter” and has since become something of a mascot for the Street Fighter series and the company which created it, Capcom. Ryu is a martial artist who travels the world fighting all kinds of opponents seeking to further hone his skills. Despite his benign goals, he is plagued by a dark power within him, the Satsui no Hado or dark hado. The Satsui no Hado (translated as “Surge of Murderous Intent”) is a sinister power that arises within individuals when they become so consumed with rage or the desire for power that they are willing to kill for it. In Ryu’s case, it was awakened in him when he was pushed to his absolute limit while fighting a powerful opponent. He eventually loses control of himself and wins the bout with a single vicious attack powered by the dark hado. Ever since that time it has threatened to consume him and take away his heart and his humanity. Ryu’s heroics do not lie primarily in fighting villains, but in his struggle with the evil within himself.
Like Ryu’s Satsui no Hado, sin is and remains a constant threat to us during our lives here on earth. Paul writes about our struggle against it in Romans 7:21-25: “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Even though sin’s power over us has been broken, this does not mean that evil remains idle. God’s warning to Cain back in Genesis 4:7 is every bit as applicable to us today: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Sin no longer has the last word, but that doesn’t stop it from constantly trying to coax and cajole us back into its service. It lies at our door (“crouching” in the English Standard Version) accosting us at every opportunity. God also wants us and seeks us at every turn, but His desire for us is very different than sin’s. Sin wants us so that it can consume us. God wants us so that we may be filled with Him thereby receiving life everlasting and being shaped into the person He created us to be.
With sin so persistently after us, Paul advises us to think of our Christian walk as an athletic contest. He writes, “Do you not know that those who run a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) The prize that athletes receive for winning a contest is a perishable one, one that does not last (as a matter of fact, Paul is probably here referring to the crown of laurels that was awarded in ancient Greece, a crown of leaves and branches that would wither). Paul states, however, that in our Christian walks we are striving for a crown of eternal consequence. The imperishable crown of which he speaks is the crown of life used as a metaphor for the eternal life with and in God that we receive. (Revalation 2:10, 3:11) The contest of Christianity has the highest stakes and we compete, not against others, but against ourselves, sin, and the devil.
Although Christ has won the victory for us against sin, we cannot sit back and rest on our laurels, for we must follow Christ in order to cross the finish line. Paul urges us to be deliberate in our living: “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.” The decision to follow Jesus is a deliberate setting of ourselves against our former ways and a decision that we must make many times each day (as many times as sin urges us to return to it). Making this decision is no easy task. Just like a martial artist (or any other athlete) we must train ourselves as we pursue our goal. Martial artists train themselves by such means as weightlifting, practicing kata, running drills, cardiovascular exercises, etc. Christians train themselves by meditating, reading Scripture, praying, serving, etc. The goal is the same: to further immerse oneself in and become more proficient at one’s art. The Christian’s art is to rely on God alone and become ever more conformed to Christ’s image.
Ryu’s training and travels may serve as a metaphor for the kind of pilgrimage that Christians are on. Though he is well traveled, Ryu’s destination is not a physical place, but an intangible one: ever further mastery of his art. Likewise Christians, no matter how far we go or how spiritually mature we become, have no physical destination. As a matter of fact our destination cannot be found in this world, tangible or intangible. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16) Christians constantly seek the heavenly country that God has prepared for them in eternity. The Kingdom of Heaven which grows in our hearts is a foretaste of the rest which awaits us. Despite the constant attack of the dark hado upon him, Ryu remains dedicated to his journey. Likewise, despite sin’s attack we ought to remain dedicated to our Christian journey.
It is worth noting that Ryu doesn’t have a perfect track record when it comes to resisting the dark hado. There have been times that it has successfully taken over him, but he was able to come to his senses again, not due to his abilities alone but with the help of his friends who called him back to himself. Ryu’s battle with the dark hado is not a solitary one, but one in which he is helped and supported by others. Our battle against sin is not a solitary one either. God is always with us and He has also created the Church in which we are able to help and support one another as fellow pilgrims. We cannot stand alone against sin because there will be times that we stumble or lose our way and need others to help us up and to lead us back to the straight and narrow way.
Ryu shows us that being a hero isn’t always about battling villains but sometimes consists in battling the evil that dwells within us. It is about the daily resisting of that evil and the training that helps us to resist. For Christians, this means learning to rely on God rather than ourselves and to draw from His strength rather than our own. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Food for Thought:
- Am I actively following Christ’s call to heaven or am I sitting idle and waiting for heaven to come to me?
- Do I merely go through the motions and fight as one who beats the air or do I discipline myself and bring myself in subjection to Christ?
- Consider what a mercy it is that God helps me in my struggle to follow Him.