Once again, Marvel releases another “superhero movie packed with action, fiery explosions, biologically altered villains, and seemingly-complex heroes ready to save New York City-because for some reason that particular city is always prone to being destroyed. Within the past 14 years or so there has been this wide spread trend among Hollywood producers, directors, and writers to recreate the stories from classic comic books on the big screen. Each year there is bound to be another superhero blockbuster to come to a theater near you.
With Great Responsibility, blah, blah, blah
With each new film that I watch I ponder upon the characteristics and traits that mold the protagonists into heroes. It usually begins with some inhuman super power that distinguishes them from the average Joe but more importantly gives them the power to defeat the evil, supernatural forces that wreck havoc on the general populace. With these new powers, the hero steps up and defend the defenseless innocents because they have the ability to do so. To quote Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This idea reflects a fundamental virtue of the Enlightenment which stated that those who had the ability to help, the influence to make a difference for the good, and the power to make change, also had the inherent responsibility to do so.
I believe as Christians our faith gives us a “superpower” of sorts. My personal relationship with God, my faith on what cannot be seen, and my hope that God’s way holds possibilities for the future has empowered me to continually become a better person than what I was yesterday. With this faith has come a desire to be as Christ-like as possible-as well as having the patience to know that I am not perfect and this transformation is not going to happen overnight. Yet, these on-screen superheroes have me reflecting upon my responsibility as a Christian and if I have been doing my “superpower” justice. Heroes save lives, they give hope, and they heal. There traits are manifested within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in real history. Christ’s love, faith, hope and connection with God the Father allowed him to harness this power and influence a generation. So can we hope to do the same and are we expected to do the same?
I’m Not Ready for This
It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by this overpowering sense of responsibility to touch and influence all the souls around you, wherever you go. We are to go out and “make fishers of men,” are we not? From where I stand today I know that I have not directly saved anyone’s soul nor have I turned someone away from the “path of darkness” to a righteous one; perhaps I have drawn others closer as they have for me but nothing powerfully transformative. In fact, I know more so how I have hurt others, broken hearts, and have remained passive, being too uncomfortable to speak up. It feels as if I have shirked the responsibility that has been bestowed upon me by faith. If I possess the guidance of the Holy Spirit shouldn’t I be doing more? At the end of the day I am just so inadequate; I can see how inadequate I am.
Like most families, my family is not a homogeneous one. My family is comprised of people from all over the country, people who live in the country, some who live in the city, we are short, tall, old, young, Christian, non-Christian, spiritual, or nothing at all. My family members are the few people on this Earth that I care most about and I can’t reach out to them, can’t show them the truth, or even talk much about it. Perhaps I miss many opportunities to strike up a conversation, or I’m too afraid that I’ll say the wrong thing, or that they’ll contradict me and suddenly their point trumps mine. This is more of a personal set-back but I know many can relate. After all, each hero has their weakness-even Christ. He loved humanity so much that it was his one downfall; it sent him to his grave. However, God promises us that we are more than our sufferings and can rise above. Even death is not the end of our influence and power in this world as Christ’s resurrection demonstrates.
Perhaps as I grow older and in these coming years God will transform my soul even further and whet the powers of my faith to become stronger so that I can reach out to my family one day, even if it is just one person. Our heroes in the movies, though they possess a superhuman power, still thrust themselves into rigorous training and work hard to become even stronger. The life of a Christian shouldn’t be much different. Paul urges us to continually renew our minds in Romans 12 and to be diligent in Hebrews 6, so that we maintain our hope and influence in the world. It’s a great responsibility but I’m not suggesting that you drop everything, sell all your possessions, and move to a hovel in some destitute place. You are needed wherever you are.
I am suggesting that you find ways to better yourself and to grow your faith. Prayer, reading the scripture, finding commentaries and engaging with them, and seeking out mentors are great ways to start your “superhero training.” I pray that you are never complacent and never satisfied with knowing “enough.” There is always more to discover and more to be learned. The life of a follower of Christ is one of mystery for there are no fixed answers that can be acquired through the knowledge of simple facts. I hope that you are okay with not always having an answer because having no answer just means that you are making more room for Christ’s power to fill you up and make you whole. Let your pondering and wondering be an invitation to God.
Prepared for Tomorrow
It’s true that we were commissioned with “making fishers of men” but we must also keep in mind that Jesus gave this command to his apostles. These were men who had been with Christ for years, learning from him continuously, and training under his very present and watchful eye. They were extremely prepared for the responsibility of such a commandment. I pray that one day I am also better prepared for such a commandment and I pray for you as well. However, that day may not be today or tomorrow. It’s a long continuous process to come to such a point. Much like the heroes on our TV screens we will be able to save some but not all because we’re not God, we’re not Christ, and we’re not the Holy Spirit. We are stewards and not responsible for saving every soul that we come in contact with. In fact, we can really only hope to influence those we are in close relationship with. So focus on those few people close to you. They are just as important as people half a world away.
When I begin to stress about my adequacy as a follower of Christ I just remember the greatest commands that Christ gave us in Matthew 22: 37-39, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” To love the people around me, that is my responsibility as a Christian. This is what my “superpower” has prepared me to do and I am secure in knowing that I can do that. I can be sure that this in particular does my faith justice. Besides, the world can always use just a little more love.