by Joanie Butman
Summer is the season of the superhero when new action movies debut. Who doesn’t love a good story where the underdog is attacked, persecuted, in threat of annihilation and the superhero shows up to fight on their behalf? Typically, an impressive battle wages with incredible feats of strength and justice prevails. It’s been a best-selling formula for time immemorial. Not so with Avengers, which I saw last week with my son. Spoiler Alert: the good guys don’t win in the end. As the credits rolled, I sat in the theatre stunned. It was so unsatisfying. I see enough of that in life. I want a happy ending when I go to the movies. I want vengeance. What the heck?
The movie prompted me to think about the superhero role. Looking over some of the past fictional characters such as Superman, Spiderman or even Popeye, I’d say they were ordinary people given extraordinary powers. Their personas were typically meek, mild, and they are sometimes a bit reluctant to accept the enormous responsibility placed upon them. Yet, they choose to do it anyway out of a sense of purpose and duty. They understand it is their calling.
In all contemporary superhero sagas, both the hero and the villain have equally impressive powers. However, the difference between them is typically pride, which ultimately leads to the villain’s destruction. Superheroes use their powers to benefit others. The villains use their powers to glorify themselves. Avenger’s villain, Thanos, is obsessed with killing, death and power. Sound familiar? It’s the story that began in the garden of Eden and will continue until Christ comes again. Every superhero movie is just another variation of the age-old scenario of good vs. evil.
The same way fictional superheroes are given different abilities meant to be used collectively to benefit others, as Christians, so are we. And aren’t we often reluctant to accept our responsibility as well? The Bible is littered with saints and prophets who didn’t embrace God’s plan immediately. Moses begged God to send someone else using the lamest excuses. Jonah ran away. It’s a lengthy list including some Christian giants of faith. God doesn’t force anyone to do His will. We have to choose (as so many in the Bible eventually did) to accept that His will is the only way to win in the end. We all have a role in God’s epic saga of love and redemption. The important question is how you choose to play it.
Even Christ asked God for another way as He prayed in Gethsemane. Christ’s power was in His humility and submission to God’s will. We have access to that same power. We’ve all been given unique gifts and talents, which can be used to benefit others. Sadly, these abilities can also be self-serving depending on how we choose to employ them. Just as in the superhero movies, whether it be Avengers, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, pride distorts God’s intention and rewrites the instruction manual with self at the helm. However, when you submit yourself to God’s will, your humility and God’s power enables even the meekest to do heroic things…and for many, that heroic thing will be trusting and praising Him in the midst of suffering.
As Christians, this won’t be a spoiler alert: we know the conclusion of our story. However, that time hasn’t come yet. Sadly, the reality is that sometimes it appears the bad guys are winning. And they do win some battles, but just as Avengers will certainly have a sequel to bring Thanos down, our salvation story hasn’t played out yet. As it is written in Deuteronomy 32:35 “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Now that’s an ending I look forward to. In the meantime, I will have to be satisfied with the new movie about Mr. Rogers – a superhero in his own right who changed the lives of countless people. His super powers were ones of wisdom, gentleness, kindness, compassion and love. How could that possibly disappoint?