It was Sunday afternoon a few years ago, and my kids were hurrying to tie their shoes and comb their hair. We loaded into the van to make it to the movie on time. Like most kids, they love the movies, even the small budget theater we go to for an inexpensive afternoon of entertainment. We have a whole system of who gets the popcorn, who gets the ICEEs, and more importantly, who has to get the refill. But just as we were heading out, my 7-year-old son asked if he could wear his Batman cape.
Now, he hadn’t done that for a year or so. He used to wear it everywhere—restaurants, the park, visiting relatives. He would have worn it to church if mom would’ve let him. He loved to rush around caught up in his superhero imagination. Fighting for good and destroying the bad guys, he would jump off walls and dive under chairs. I’ve missed that cape. I’ve missed his desire to be the superhero. So, while I was surprised by his request, I was also happy to know that I was bringing the Dark Knight along with us to the movies.
The desire to make a change, to impact our society for the better, is a noble undertaking. Americans on all sides of the political spectrum are searching for a way to make an impact, to not only be heard but to effect change. For while we may have varying views on just what a better society might look like, we still value the freedom to gather around our ideal. We can protest and march and demonstrate so that society will take note. We hope that those who make, administer, and judge our laws might be impacted by our passion. In a way, we are searching for a superhero that will save the day. Save the day for the unborn fragile lives that are tragically aborted. Save the day for the refugee, the outcast, and the forgotten. Save the day for the homeless and the hungry. Who will put on the cape and cowl and step into the fray?
The thing is, we have grown accustomed to our superheroes failing us. Whether that superhero was a political party, a government agency, an individual politician, or charitable entrepreneur, over and again they have failed. We aren’t even shocked anymore when it happens. And so we forget about the capes and get lulled into the status quo. We wonder if there is any way to truly fight for the good and defeat the evil. If marches on Washington or protests at the airport can’t effect change, then where will we find the superhero? The ACLU? The mainstream media? Where do we look?
I suggest that there is still a place that deserves our attention. It may not look like much. In fact, it may look somewhat silly and completely forgettable. But there is a place that holds the potential to effect positive change in a bold and radical way. That place is the Christian Church.
Now you may rush to say that the Christian faith is no great force for change in our political system. In fact, many will rightly conclude that when the Church tries to rally together and take a side in the public arena, it often makes a fool of itself. Many more will wonder where the Church has been all these years, for it only seems to speak loudly on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade or to protest the redefining of marriage. Outside of that, the Christian Church is often strangely silent. Add to this that the Christian Church is fractured and frequently filled with its own infighting. How could such a group be a superhero?
As a group, I don’t think it can. But unlike all the other groups out there, it does something completely different. It doesn’t try to simply be the superhero. Rather, it becomes a factory for making superheroes, the very superheroes this world desperately needs. In other words, the Christian Church has a knack for creating and sustaining real world superheroes that can do great and wonderful things. Now, those things may or may not be successful marches on Washington. They may or may not be lobbying efforts or political campaigning. For this is the beauty of the Christian faith; it does just fine in the shadows, in the lowly and humble things of this world.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth almost 2,000 years ago, he asked,
“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).
In other words, the mission of the Christian Church is to preach, to speak a word. Now this word admittedly may seem like folly to the world. It has been called as much along with being labeled a stumbling block among other things. But the message of this word is the gift of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins. It is a powerful word that can say with shocking clarity both “You have sinned” and “I forgive you.” This message doesn’t need government approval or legislative support, for it is carried from the mouth of one person to the ears of another, nothing more and nothing less.
This peculiar work of saving is the work of a word carried and proclaimed by the Christian Church. It appears weak and foolish, but it possesses the power to smash hearts of stone and bring hope and purpose to those who suffer and are afraid. It may not play well to a large audience at a rally, but it works with precision when spoken from one friend to another. It might not turn back Roe v. Wade, but it can defend the innocent life in the scared girl across the street. It might not open our borders to refugees, but it may well give courage to pour out our charitable abundance. It is in the sending out of those who speak this word of a crucified and risen Lord that the Church dispatches its undercover superheroes among us.
They may not be daring enough to wear Batman’s cape to the movie theater, but they continue to fight for good and to destroy evil, day in and day out, in the shadows and the lowly corners of our country.