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I know where I'll be at least a few times this summer: waiting in line outside my local movie theater. Summer movie season means one thing to me: lots and lots of comic book superheroes. I love them. But simply seeing comic book heroes in the flesh and blood (and cool suits) isn't the main reason I buy my ticket. I keep coming back again and again because of the stories. You see, I've noticed something pretty cool. Almost every time I leave a superhero movie, I say the same thing to myself: "I can't believe how many biblical themes are in that movie!" Here are four big ideas from the Bible that are common in superhero flicks:
Spidey has big fights with Doc Ock in Spider–Man 2, but really, the movie is more about the battle inside Peter Parker. Being a superhero isn't easy. He can't pay his bills, the girl he loves falls for another guy, and he can't even find time to study. He just wants a normal life. And so, he chooses to walk away from being Spider–Man.
As Peter Parker discovered, it's hard to do what's right. Jesus described choosing the right thing as the "narrow" path—not many people choose it. He said, "The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it" (Matthew 7:13-14, CEV).
So why would superheroes, like Spider–Man, ever choose the hard way when they could just be happy? Peter's Aunt May explains it in a speech that inspires him to go back to his hero life. She says, "The world needs heroes: courageous, self–sacrificing people [who] set examples for all of us. I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams."
Aunt May's lesson reflects what the Bible teaches. In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus says anyone who comes to him must deny their own life. That means, as Aunt May says, giving up some things we want for something greater (1 Corinthians 7:24).
Superman can fly, outrun trains and stop bullets, but he still has a weakness: Kryptonite. It makes him weak and vulnerable. In a way, I have kryptonite in my life too—things that weaken me or damage my ability to use my gifts for God.
The Daredevil (Matt Murdock) is blind, but other strengths help him excel as a superhero. We, too, aren't strong in every way, but are given certain gifts and abilities by God (Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:7-13). Being weak in some areas allows us to rely on God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Our weaknesses also show us we need to lean on the strengths of others. In Romans, Paul describes the church as a body, where each part performs a different duty (12:4-5). Groups of superheroes like The X–Men, The Incredibles, or the Fantastic Four are like this too. Each person has different strengths. Together, they make a fully working body.