Generally speaking, there are two types of superheroes: the brightly colored, cape-wearing, building-leaping, after-school-special kind . . . and the dark, glowering, brooding-on-rooftops kind.
Some heroes have been around so long their character has seen the best of both sides. The quintessential example of this is (of course) Batman.
Back in the ‘60s, the Caped Crusader wore a silk suit, drove around in a decked-out red and black automobile, and knocked out villains with an iconic “BAM! BOOM! POW!” The shows and movies were full of puns. One of the weapons in Batman’s arsenal was shark repellent spray, and he had it with him at all times. He used a bright red phone to get in contact with the mayor. By the end of the day, he would always be cheerfully victorious – and in the mood to dance.
Then, years later, his character evolved into the Dark Knight, the broken-hearted billionaire who burns through cash to terrify criminals while lightning strikes in the background. He crashed through buildings with impunity in a souped-up, spray-painted black tank. His costume is padded with Kevlar. He learned ninjitsu and other martial arts from a morally questionable master somewhere in east Asia. When he finally overcame his villains, there were always casualties on both sides. He returned to Wayne Manor (or what was left of it) to nurse injuries both physical and psychological.
There are many heroes who fall into either of these veins, and sometimes they shift as new iterations of their stories surface. For me, this stratification denotes the difference between a character motivated by abiding hope – and one motivated by blind faith.
This is particularly relevant as an abstract case study in examining the perils and protocols of living a Christian life. Of course, as 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, the greatest and most fundamental motivation of our hearts is love, but sometimes, when the chips are down, we sometimes choose between hope and faith. How do we keep going when the Good Fight seems impossible?
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the cheerful and colorful Caped Crusader and its correlation to living with a foundation attitude of hope in our walk with Christ. (I’ll save the Dark Knight for the next post.)
I have personally gone through phases in my walk with Christ that strongly feature both hope and faith, but I typically tend toward hope. I’m a cheerful person, always happy to lend a helping hand. I’m constantly whistling, humming, or singing a tune. Whenever I encounter someone new, I try to give them a smile. I am confident in the plans I believe the Lord is working through my life, and I act like it. Even when I have my nose so close to the grindstone I can’t see anything else, I somehow make it look easy because I’m enjoying the work. In these times, I am the archetypal hopeful superhero.
The demarcation of hopeful superheroes is their focus on the future. They see the goal they are striving toward – whether that’s the elimination of crime, creating a new utopia, or ensuring the safety and happiness of all. Because of the innocence of these heroes, they are the gold standard for children’s stories, but are enduring beacons for those who love them into adulthood.
For hopeful Christians, that future is the promise of salvation and the eternal impending victory of God over evil. I Peter 1:3-6 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” This joy is always present in the hopeful Christian, because everything is based on their hope for imperishable glory in heaven with Christ.
It’s not always so easy, though. When our shining reward of being fully known in the glory of God remains in the future, the present can seem disappointing – and that’s a purposeful understatement. In situations where I feel like I am pushing towards God’s path for me, only to find door after door slammed in my face, I try my best to stick to hope. Hope feeds on itself. Hope can be a “fake it ‘til you make it” scenario. Bombarding my brain with a constant stream of thought processes comprised of happiness, joy, and lightheartedness can compound those feelings and reinforce hopeful thinking until it becomes the standard.
But when none of that works, and the world starts looking less like New Jerusalem under construction and more like Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City, we sometimes have to let go of hope and rely purely on blind faith. We have to ditch the blue and yellow in exchange for the gray and black. The show must go on, but when the light of hope grows dim, we choose to fight under the nom de guerre of the Dark Knight.
To Be Continued…