CLERGY CORNER: A different kind of hero

Posted on 19 July 2017 by LeslieM

When God saw what they (Ninevah) did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”

(Jonah 3:10 NRSV)

Full disclosure, I like comic books. I like comic book heroes. And one of the things I enjoy doing with my family is going to see superhero movies. This summer has produced some pretty great movies and, as a religious leader, I see all kinds of great material that I can use on a Sunday morning.

The Bible is filled with great stories that have inspired great comic book writers. These are stories about heroes and villains, and heroic rescues filled with action and suspense. If you like reading the Bible, you probably enjoy a good comic book now and then.

I have noticed something about comic books and superheroes, as well as villains. While, on occasion, we may stumble across a super hero lacking virtue of a misunderstood villain some gray area may be interjected for plausibility now and then. But, by and large, superheroes are good and villains are bad. But when the superhero captures a villain, a part of us rejoices. Good has defeated evil.

And the victims who find themselves in trouble — the damsels in distress, the kitty who is caught up in the tree, the child hanging on to a cliff — we love to see the hero swoop down from the sky and rescue them. The damsels are always beautiful, the kitties are always cuddly and the child is always cute.

But what if the enemy is the one who needs to be rescued? What if Lex Luthor was dangling from a cliff? Would Superman swoop down and rescue him? What if the Joker or Penguin were trapped by a bear, would Batman come by and rescue his arch enemies? There is a part of us that would say “good riddance.” But that is not how God operates.

I love the story of Jonah, the reluctant hero. He was called by God to rescue the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was the major trade city of the Assyrians, the enemies of the people of Israel. Jonah doesn’t want to do it. He would rather be swallowed by a giant fish than tell the people of Nineveh to repent.

Yet, he was ordered by God to be prophetic and tell the people in this pagan city to repent. After he delivered the message, he waited on the outskirts for calamity. He was even looking forward to their demise. But, something happened that really disappointed Jonah, they repented and God changed his mind.

It was clear that Jonah saw Nineveh as evil, the enemy, people he hated. God loved the people of Nineveh.

The story goes against our comic book sensibilities. But, the words of St. Paul echo the sentiment of Jonah.

Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.”

(Romans 5:7)

Did God send his son when we deserved it? No, “While we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)

Perhaps it is time to write the comic book that has yet to be written. Heroes rescue villains. [Editor’s Note: Dear Pastor Gross … watch the new Spiderman movie]. Unworthy people are saved. Rescued people aren’t always grateful. But wait; that book exists.

We do find ourselves guilty, now and then, thinking that we have earned the right to be rescued. Like Jonah, we cheer for the demise of our enemies and flatter ourselves into believing we are better, or loved more by God, or worthy of God’s love. The message of the Bible is distinctly different than the message of the comic book hero. In comic books, the villains have no humanity and the ones who are rescued have earned the right to be rescued by being innocent, adorable or nice.

The one dimensional lines of a comic book meet the multi-dimensional reality of the world where villains are created in the image of God and damsels in distress are sinful and unclean. Superman will rescue some, but God sends the ultimate hero to rescue all.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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