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The Search for a Superhero

There’s a human longing for real superheroes we can look up to.

There’s a human longing for real superheroes we can look up to.

Superheroes are everywhere right now! There’s a human longing for real heroes we can look up to and who can bring real justice to this troubled world.

“Everybody’s searching for a hero; people need someone to look up to.”

So goes a line in the song “The Greatest Love of All” by George Benson that was made world-famous by Whitney Houston. Those lyrics speak volumes not only for Benson’s and Houston’s generation but also—judging by the influx and popularity of comic book superhero films released recently—for a new generation of hero seekers.

The pop culture’s love affair with the comic book hero genre is nothing new, as the majority of these characters have their origins in the 1940s and ’50s. Even I, being a child of the ’70s, remember my grade school lunch box bearing images of the Fantastic Four and my older brother having one with Captain America. But most recently there has been a comic book superhero renaissance of sorts, with a renewed interest in these revamped characters tailored to a new generation of moviegoers.

Films released last year (such as Iron Man, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Captain America, Green Lantern, The Green Hornet) and the latest releases (such as The Avengers, Spider-Man and Batman) are part of the menu to help feed the public’s appetite for a superhero (or group of superheroes) who will right wrongs, fight for justice and protect the general public from evil.

In essence, people are looking for a savior of sorts. But these imaginary heroes can only cure, for a time, the ill of entertainment boredom. Something or someone else is badly needed for true justice, protection and righteousness.

Longing for a superhero is nothing new

What’s going on in society right now reminds me of society’s fascination with imaginary heroes. Greek mythology was just such a codified belief system in which the characters were deified yet given to human frailties and desires. The apostle Paul took note of the tributes to these “super humans” during his stroll on Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-21). Certain of the Greek/Roman gods are still paid tribute to in our time.

As in Paul’s day when he disregarded the heroes, who were no heroes, and proclaimed the one inscription to the unknown God as being to the only true God, I also see Him as the answer to the recent longing for a “superhero.”

There is no question that this generation is enamored with the concept of a superhero who is able to defy gravity and other human constraints. Many wish there were actually someone or several who literally had superhero powers with completely benevolent motives.

They dream of and even dress up like and attend conventions paying homage to their favorite superhero. Wishing there were indeed someone who could fly, penetrate walls and hold up falling towers. Someone who could zoom around the world preventing disasters and crimes at once—someone who was, in essence, omnipresent.

Realizing the unlikelihood of finding these superhuman attributes, more realistic individuals at the very least seek a political or celebrity personality that is all-popular, all-wise and all-compassionate. Either way, the masses are sorely disappointed that there is no superhero, real or imagined, that can ease the pain within their personal lives.

God is He whom we seek

It seems no matter how old we get, we never quite outgrow certain yearnings. The yearning for someone to come along and get us out of harmful or ruinous situations never subsides with age. God wants to use this natural proclivity in humans to turn our attention to Him and His Word.

In the pages of the Bible there are many instances in which God reveals Himself to mankind. He makes known to us His superlative attributes and extraordinary powers.

God inspired large portions of Scripture to bear record of the many miracles performed by Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh and the very representative of the Kingdom of God. Throughout the Gospel accounts, Christ is witnessed by thousands demonstrating awesome acts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Whether it was a seemingly inconsequential act of changing water into wine at a wedding (John 2:9-11) or the many healings of infirmities and demon possessions, the miraculous acts were done with the long-term goal of instilling belief, strengthening faith in the Savior and pointing the individuals toward God’s benevolent and inevitable earthly dominion.

Jesus could heal people of leprosy and raise the dead, as well as walk on water and calm a tempest in the sea with just the command of His voice. God gave Christ the ability to read the thoughts of others, command the demons to obey Him and expand five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 men “besides women and children” with leftover fragments (Matthew 14:21)!

These abilities surpass those of all humanly imagined “superheroes” combined. They were also done in all humility with the objective of constructing the Church, proclaiming the gospel and eventually ushering in the future Kingdom of God for the benefit of all humanity (John 20:30-31).

The adulation this generation has for comic book superheroes truly displays a craving for justice, healing, protection, righteousness and salvation. We who have been blessed with God’s Spirit of understanding are most fortunate to be able to seek His future promises in the pages of Bible and not in a comic book or on a theater screen. For we know, indeed, God is He whom we seek.

For more about our all-powerful Creator God, see the articles in the section about God.

About the Author

Peter M. Gabriel

Peter M. Gabriel is a member of the Houston North congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He is married and is the coordinator of the local congregation’s newsletter.

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