Paging Clark Kent: Heroism and the Gospel of Jesus

When you were a kid did want to be Superman when you grew up? Sure you have. Personally, I was partial to Batman but who can really beat Superman?

 

We all have this insatiable yearning for something bigger and better. The world needs fixing. Society needs changing. Everybody can feel this and we hear so many voices in our world crying out for a man or woman of uncommon gifts to come through and lead us. Have you noticed this trend in the last few years with all the old comic book heroes coming to life? When I was a kid I must have watched Michael Keaton as Batman twenty times but apparently the comic-book purists were never all that impressed by his rendition- or Adam West’s for that matter. Besides Batman and Superman, though, our heroes were exclusively in books collected by forty-year-olds living in their mother’s basement. It seems we were not yet ready to cry out for a hero.

 

Today everybody is crying out for a hero. I think if you want to learn to print money it would be a good idea to read a bunch of really obscure comic books and write a screenplay.

 

Take a look at the top-ten movies this past weekend at the box office. If you count Jack Sparrow and the Kung Fu Panda as superheroes (which, I admit, may be a stretch), four out of the top ten movies right now are about superheroes. I do not think this is a coincidence. We all want to be a hero. We are told over and over and over again that there is a “hero inside us”. We think: why can’t I be like that? Sure, we are fine without the awesome claws (or talons? I’m showing my ignorance of superhero lore) that Wolverine grows, but we would all take his self-healing powers in a heartbeat.

 

If we were gut-honest, we would admit that we are not content with being who we are. There is no better place to see dissatisfied people than in church Sunday by Sunday. We have been sold a pack of goods. We have been offered heroism but come to find out our price was reality. We are not made to be super-human but simply human.

 

I always find it funny when I come to the end of the Apostle Paul’s letter to his friends at a city called Corinth. After a few pages of Paul exposing and addressing some disgusting behavior that included a guy shacking-up with his stepmother and the rich actually getting drunk at communion, he gives five quick commands.

 

Be watchful.

Stand firm in the faith.

Act like men.

Be strong.

Let all you do be done in love.

 

Does one of these stand out to you? Of course it does, it is in italics. I never expect to come across this little command when am reading the bible, but sure enough, it is here every time. Act like men.

 

Act like a man- not a visitor from the planed Krypton- a man. Act like a man- not an obscenely wealthy super-athlete crime-fighter- a man. Not a kid who got bit by a radioactive spider- a man. Not like a conquering hero set off to change the world- a man.

 

When we were made in the garden, formed by the intentional words of our Creator, he made us exactly the way he wanted us. If he had wanted heroes he would have created radioactive spiders but that does not seem to be the case now does it? Paul’s desire for us is that we would live life as characters in God’s story. Some of us will do dramatic things, some notorious. Most of us, however, will spend the next few years working forty hours a week, collect our paycheck, love our family and drink a cold beer with the ballgame on the radio. I used to think this was a waste. Today I see things a bit differently. Faithfulness, not accomplishment, is our call.

 

The lives we live may seem very common but that is ok. Wherever we are we can walk with the same Lord. Shouldn’t that be enough? A mechanic can love his wife as Christ loves the church just as well as a pastor of a mega-church. It doesn’t take a super-human effort to live faithfully; it just takes the presence of God in our lives.

 

To turn around a great thought from C.S. Lewis, our ambitions too often are not too weak but too strong. We want to be the headliners. We want the plot to revolve around our decisions, choices and thoughts- and in a lot of ways they do. The problem quickly becomes that we confuse our little stories for the larger story that is being written. Some of us control the plot by making one self-interested decision after another; others control the plot by staying inside, hiding out in the comfort and security of the familiar. We are far too often overly ambitious. We are not satisfied with being men and women. We want something more- just like our first parents.

 

Adam and Eve were given the “opportunity” to be more than human. In their ambition, they fought God for the lead role. We do the exact same thing every day when we fight him for control.

 

And that is exactly why Jesus’ story is so strange to us. He had every opportunity to be more than human. Out of love for his Father and his brothers, though, Jesus knelt down to become the least of all humanity. That is what it means for him to become sin for us. Where we are ambitious he was humble. Where we are greedy he was generous.

 

Jesus’ obedience, faithfulness and love are ours because of his death and resurrection. He has ascended into heaven and sit at the Father’s right hand- remaining perfect God and perfect Man forever.

 

Today we will all feel an insatiable appetite to become more than we were intended to be. The question becomes, are we willing to let God form us as he sees fit?

 

Lets be content to be human.

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