We can debate the reasons at length—the innate longing for a redeemer, to see good triumph over evil, or to be freed from our feelings of impotence; a belief there must be more to this life than our humdrum existence—but no one can argue that superheroes have long captured the human imagination.
From the halls of Odin to the exploits of Beowulf, the graphic-art mythos of Superman, the school day victories of colorful Power Rangers—even the near-magical brilliance of Sherlock’s intelligence and the brave new world of scientific discovery—superheros are super!
It’s straight-up fun with no collateral damage. The only ones getting clubbed by Thor’s hammer or Ka-POWed by Batman’s fist are the most villainous of villains, most hideous of mutants, most craven of the fallen. The good and the innocent, the folks with honest faces like ours, are defended. And, of course, the prettiest are gallantly rescued, because beauty is its own reward.
Some years back, a co-worker related the time she asked her four-year-old grandson what he wanted to be when he grew up. “A Ninja Turtle,” he declared. Granted, he may have interpreted the question in terms of Halloween costumes. But still… How many boys aspire to be a real hero—say, an Elijah, or the Apostle Paul? We’re more likely to see girls emulate Jezebel than Hannah. And who on earth daydreams about the glories of living in Hebrews 11?
The qualities that earn hero status—determination, wealth, pride, sexual powers—are, to one degree or another, attainable goals to anyone who tries hard enough. Superheroes are Ego’s mirror. The mild-mannered Clark Kent embodies Everyman’s potential given the right combination of luck and asteroids.
Heaven forbid heroism be too unattainable. Be holy, for God is holy? Walk by faith not by sight? Move mountains through prayer? Don’t be ridiculous; I live in the real world.
Maybe the real world isn’t what we’d like to think. And maybe, neither is redemption. Could it be that the real Redeemer will tear off our honest-faced masks and force us to see the evil within? Please, no—that’s a little too real.
Nadab and Abihu mistook Jehovah God for a genie in a bottle. They performed the spell they’d seen work before, chanting what they thought were the magic words. But the fire they summoned from heaven wasn’t what they had in mind. The missing ingredient for them—and for us—was the dreaded humble obedience.
We can’t do God’s thing our way and expect to come out a hero. Rather, when we obey God with slave-like submission (ouch! did Paul really mean that?), God will accept that offering. He’ll use it as a tool, to do His thing His way. Sometimes the result’s flashy and sometimes it’s not. But whatever it looks like, it’s superpowered.
What if we really believed what God says with the kind of faith that brings fundamental change to our lives? What if we honestly believed these lives to be no longer our own, but the exclusive property of the Sovereign God? What if we consciously, deliberately, and actually put aside our old fleshly attitudes and habits and put on the humility of Christ?
We’d be superheroes.
Bulging biceps aren’t required. Neither are Wonderwoman legs. The only prerequisite for super heroism is what God has already given us. Just that… but all of that. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Imagine what a church might be like with superheroes in the pews. A home, if mom and dad were superheroes. A community, with a few superhero citizens.
Imagine what fiction might look like if superheroes were writing it.