Believers in Jesus are called to be as heroic as their Savior. Here are six ways in which living the Christian life is like being a comic book hero:
1. You Have an Epic Destiny
Some days, you might feel like an NPC. You know what I’m talking about: The “Non-Player Characters,” you encounter in video games, the ones that mill around a fantasy town like that guy who was walking around chomping on a carrot in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. People like that don’t rescue the princess, defeat the forces of darkness, or save the world. They are there to say things like, “I’m sorry, but the Princess is in another castle!” and “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this!” Then the hero of the story buys 99 health potions from them and goes on to do great things. When we play video games and watch movies, we’re put in the shoes of the hero of the story, not the side characters that he or she encounters along the way. But when we look at our real lives, it’s easy to mistake them for being small, unimportant, and more suitable for NPCs than heroes.
Sure, there are real-life heroes who are easy to spot: the ones lifting wounded people onto stretchers or carrying them out of burning buildings. Christians might even have spiritual heroes like pastors and teachers—people who seem to spend all their time serving God, probably racking up quite a reward for themselves when the Kingdom finally comes. They seem to come down from their fellowship with God glowing, like Moses did when he came down the mountain to talk to the Israelites. Ordinary people could never be like that, could never know God that deeply or serve God that powerfully. We have to be content to sit on the sidelines working at boring jobs, or sitting in the pews at Church and giving some money to the cause when we can afford it. If we’re brave we might even try to talk about our faith, but chances are we don’t think we’re very good at it.
We don’t look like heroes. We don’t carry oversized swords or shine like prophets (well, at least most of us don’t), and most of us have never saved a life. If we’re sure of one thing, it’s that when all’s said and done, we’re pretty ordinary, regular people.
The thing is, we’re not allowed to be ordinary.
You are not allowed to live a small, uneventful life.
Whether you’ve felt it or not, you have been summoned to a great adventure. You were born to be anything but ordinary. You don’t get to be an NPC.
It’s like the Jesus said: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Wait, that was the apostle Peter.
Peter Parker, I mean.
Anyway, it’s true. And Jesus really did say it, though not in those words. He said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).
And we as Christians have been given so much. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). You have been predestined. You know how that works. There’s an ancient prophecy that a hero will rise…
And in this case, the prophecy was given by God. And that hero is you.
You are the one God chose, just like he chose Queen Esther to save her people thousands of years ago. She was told, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
But that’s not true. Here’s what God says about what he’s made you: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:10). You, my friend, are royalty.
“Wait,” you say, picking the Doritos crumbs out of your beard as regally as possible, “I sure don’t feel like royalty. And I’m sure as heck not reigning upon the earth.”
Not all of us have been living up to the standard God has set for our lives: “much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). But just because we’re not experiencing it yet doesn’t mean it’s not there. And it sure doesn’t mean we have an excuse.
The stakes are high for us. We’ve been thrown into a battleground, a fallen and broken world. We’re probably at least a little upset at God now and then for that. Every time we ask the question, “WHY?!” it proves that we realize there’s something messed up about the deal we’ve gotten.
Remember that time the Illuminati stuffed the Incredible Hulk into a rocket and fired him into space to live on a dangerous planet?
♪ “And I think to myself, ‘what a wonderful woooooooorld…'” ♪
That’s you. You’re the Hulk. This world is a dangerous alien planet that you’ve been sent to. I know it doesn’t seem fair, especially if you’re going through something horrible as a result of being stuck in this fallen world, but God says “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (I John 5:19).
And it isn’t fair. To the evil one. Because you are more dangerous to him than you think. The problem is…
2. You Have a Secret Identity
Comic book heroes often have alter egos—completely different personalities from their superhero identities—which disguise who they are more effectively than any costume or mask. Superman is secretly the mild mannered Clark Kent. The Incredible Hulk is the weak Bruce Banner. Skitter, the heroine of the best superhero story ever, is actually the shy, bullied girl Taylor Hebert.
Sure some of them have “cool” alter egos, like Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen, just like some Christians don’t seem very unpopular or weak. In fact, some believers seem like they are plenty heroic even without bringing their faith into it. But for the rest of us our secret identities may not seem worth bragging about.
The reason this is a problem is that the world convinces you that you are your alter ego, and not the hero God has created you to be.
Imagine if Batman took a crowbar to the head one too many times and forgot that he was anything other than Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy. Sure his life wouldn’t seem too bad to someone who didn’t know who he really was. He lives like a king; every day is like a vacation. But somewhere within him is another person, like a ghost trapped in his heart—someone who can’t stand to see his city turned into a playground for criminals, who doesn’t want to spend another minute in the company of some vapid supermodel, who isn’t scared when he walks past dark alleys because deep inside he knows he belongs there to destroy the works of criminals.
The most dangerous thing for the Christian is for their secret identity to be a secret from themselves.
They think that this everyday life is all there is, that they are meant to work and pay the bills, go to Church once or twice a week, put money in the offering plate, vote, rinse, repeat… and that’s all. Who can blame us? The full force of the world is focused on us like a laser, always trying to make us forget who we are and fall in line under the enemy’s plan.
But that’s not who you are. No matter what you’ve been told by the world, you do not belong here. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
And it’s not just the world. Sometimes the Church sends the wrong message too. They prop up certain callings as if they are the truly heroic ones and the rest of us are just the crowd cheering them on. Maybe you’ve been told that certain people have a high calling—usually pastors, teachers, evangelists, and maybe apostles and prophets if your church thinks those are still around—and others have lesser callings… like putting chairs away in the sanctuary. That’s rubbish. You have a high calling. The high calling, in fact (Phil. 3:14). I’m talking about the calling of being in Christ Jesus, of being like him and being part of his reconciling everything that has been torn away from him back to himself (II Cor. 5:18). Reject all preaching that says some have great destinies and some don’t.
I’m just saying, some destinies are smaller than others…
Here’s the problem we have to deal with: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23-24). That’s what the enemy wants, for us to hear the message of God and not live it, to glimpse the fact that we’re not of this world, like Superman, then go away and forget what we really are, to be mild mannered in the face of the darkness that threatens our world when while something within us screams unheard.
Jesus is the prototype superhero. Look what he said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). If there were no other verse in the Bible, this one alone would be enough to assure us that an ordinary life isn’t in the cards for us. Jesus, the ultimate Hero, said that those who believe in him will do the things he did. Then he says something that I can never quite wrap my head around. He says we’re actually going to do greater works, because he goes to the Father.
What Jesus did to make us new creations—the cross, what came after the cross, his ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of God—that secured for us the promise of something far greater than we could have ever expected.
This is the thing that haunts the enemy, what the Bible was talking about when it says, “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Cor. 2:8). If the enemy had understood that the cross would mean that instead of dealing with one Son of God, he’d be dealing with an army of his daughters and sons, that the Spirit of God that moved so wonderfully through Jesus would be given to many, he would never have laid a claw on him. If the enemy and his “rulers of the darkness of this age” could have imagined that the superhero they thought they were killing would soon live forever—bodily, yes, but also (through his Spirit) in every single one who believed on him, and that they would be empowered to do even greater things through him—they would never have crucified him.
The ruler of this dark age is afraid of you—not of your alter ego, but of who you are in Jesus, “one spirit with him” (I Cor. 6:17).
That’s why he tries to make your identity in Jesus a secret identity, and to keep it from you. And you have to contend with him because…
3. You Have an Archenemy
Superman has Lex Luthor. Batman has the Joker. Daredevil has the Kingpin…
What makes the devil a dangerous enemy is not his power. Yeah, he’s stronger and smarter than you, but it’s not like he can match the Spirit of God. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).
The reason the Accuser (that’s what the word “devil” means) is so dangerous is because we believe him. He tells us that God doesn’t love us, brings an accusation against us, and we believe him. He tells us God won’t heal and deliver us, quotes the Word of God if he needs to, and we believe him. He wraps us in lies, says that we’re not worth anything, not born for a purpose, not capable of ever having victory over the sins he tempts us with, not meant to do greater things than Jesus through the grace that Jesus himself secured for us, not able to stand against the devil’s devices when we encounter them. “He is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He lies to you about your identity in Jesus.
We should never expect any mercy from our enemy. “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter—not Parker this time—5:8). That’s his goal: to completely destroy you.
“But I didn’t do anything to him!” Sorry. You were made in the image of God, who he hates. Worse, he knows what you could be, is terrified that he’s going to look into your eyes and find Jesus staring back at him from inside you. For that he will pour all his deceptive power into convincing you that you belong to the world, that you are not meant for anything more. But his accusations are not what God thinks of you; they are just shadow-puppets he’s cast on the wall of your heart to distract you.
“If I do this it looks like a bird!”
And you don’t need to be afraid of him because…
4. You have access to powers beyond those of mortal men
No, not of yourself. And I’m not just talking about things like teleportation or walking on water, though Jesus did both of those things, and remember that he said the works he did you’d do also, so don’t rule them out. What we call “supernatural” is perfectly natural to God. I’m talking about the kinds of powers that pull down the things the enemy has built in the world.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Cor. 10:4).
Pretty much all the things Jesus said he was called to overcome.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” (Luke 4:18-19).
That is the secret to his power: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” That’s the secret of your power too.
Too many Christians are running around like Green Lanterns who haven’t recharged their power rings, like Superman who’s spent too long in red sunlight or Spiderman who’s been swinging between buildings on empty web shooters. The source of our power is not worldly any more than the weapons of our warfare are worldly. And we cannot do anything without him.
Jesus said the same thing: “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He’s the sunlight to our Superman.
“‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the LORD.”
One of my favorite ministers from the past was John G. Lake, who lived about a century ago. He once said something that stayed with me: “If [a Christian] has not the Spirit to minister in the real high sense, he has nothing to minister. Other men have intellectually, but the Christian is supposed to be the possessor of the Spirit. He possesses something that no other man in the whole world possesses.” It’s true. The world has smarts. It has physical and technological power. It has psychology and medicine and so many other things that can be used for good. And yet, it does not have the one power that can never fail.
If we’re going to be fulfilling our high calling and doing what Jesus did in the world (and even greater things), then we’re going to need the same power Jesus relied on to do what he did (Matt. 12:28). And the good news is he has given us his Spirit to be our helper: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
It’s going to take a relationship with the Spirit if we’re to be what we’re meant to be. I’m talking about a relationship that we put just as much effort into as anything we put into our worldly lives. The apostle Paul compared living the Christian life to running a race. I like to think that if he had read The Flash as a kid, he’d have expanded on that metaphor, so let me do it for him. We are running a race, a marathon with a prize at the end, the high calling in Jesus, and we have been vested with supernatural power to run that race, to outstrip our adversary like lightning(Luke 10:18). But that’s never gonna happen if we don’t make contact with the Speed Force. That is what gives the Flash his speed, and the Spirit of God is what gives us the grace we need to live like Jesus.
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (I Cor. 9:24)
We may be in a race, but we’re not alone…
5. We are Part of a Super Team
Here’s the thing about this power we’re talking about… it actually works better when we’re together. Just like this.
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matt. 18:20).
When Jesus left his disciples after his resurrection, he told them to wait “until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This happened days later when “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1).
“Together” is the key word. Not because you can’t have a perfectly wonderful relationship with God by yourself, but because we’ve been born on the battlefield, cast headlong into a dangerous fallen world to contend with an enemy that is out for blood (and more). We could use some comrades.
Superman is part of the Justice League. The Incredible Hulk joined up with the Avengers.
Even prickly superheroes like Batman and Wolverine have their Robins and Jubilees, their Bat Family and X-Men.
We need one another.
One of the first things God ever thought about us, right after the “very good,” was, “It isn’t good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). We were called to be part of a family. It’s us against the world, quite literally.
And we’re going to overcome the world, together, because…
6. Our victory has already been decided
Every superhero has a superpower. Yes, even Batman and the Punisher and other “non-powered” heroes. It’s the same particular power that belongs to heroes in movies and novels. Sometimes it’s called Plot Armor. It’s when the writer won’t let a character die because they are vital to the story. It’s why Batman can be fired at by a dozen machine guns and he’s not going to be hit. It’s why Storm Troopers have such bad aim. And it’s something that Christians kind of have working for us, too.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6)
God is the author of our story, and he’s already decided on its ending. And it’s a good one.
That doesn’t mean we’re invincible. That would be nice. It would be great if none of the cruelties of the world ever touched us. And yes, there are promises from God that you can take hold of to find victory against adversity. I firmly believe in this promise: “in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16).
But sometimes, bad things happen. Even to superheroes.
Of course, no one in comics stays dead. The characters might be taken out of the action for a year or two, but “dead” isn’t really “dead.” In the end, they aren’t allowed to lose. That’s one more way in which Christians are like them. The adversity you face in the world has an end, but you don’t. When the last drop of sickness in the universe turns to ash, when the last cry for help has been uttered and answered, when the last tear has been wiped from the last eye, you will still be there.
There is no power that will break the connection between you and the love of God.
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).
No Kryptonite, nor elaborate death-trap, nor any Anti-Mutant Registration Act.
That’s the heart of it: “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”
A lover of Jesus and of fantastical fiction, Silas Green talks books and Christian living on Geeks Under Grace. He spends the rest of his free time trying to write stories and exploring the paradise island in the Pacific on which he is stranded.
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