By Anthony Casperson
If you are a regular reader of these blogs, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that I’m more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan. The reason for my preference really comes down to the characters. Of the more famous characters from both brands, Marvel’s tend to be more relatable. They seem to be a bit more human because they have faults and failures (even the ones who aren’t technically human).
Though more recent renditions of DC characters have tried to have this non-perfect type of hero, you really can’t escape the fact that Superman’s only true weakness comes from variously colored stones. And Batman’s holmesian detective skills aren’t usually hindered by his most prominent known issue: the loss of his parents at a young age.
However, Marvel tends to make their heroes have a fault or failure that drives/defines them. These troubles aren’t left to the side as their powers come to the forefront, and might even hinder their superheroics. Spiderman, for instance, has to juggle being Peter Parker and Spiderman. Not just having an alter ego to have one, but having real problems with his “normal” life that get in the way of his heroic deeds.
Looking beyond just Spiderman, many of the X-Men have to struggle with being different. Their mutations aren’t something that accidentally happened to them, but an inescapable genetic anomaly. There’s an outcast nature to them. (Something that really speaks to me.)
These weaknesses/faults/failures help Marvel characters seem more real to me. It makes them relatable people who aren’t all that different from me. And this type of story where the characters involved are relatable isn’t just found in the pages of comic books.
This is also one of my favorite things about the stories of the bible. God doesn’t gloss over the downfalls and destructive habits of his faithful. He lays out the faults and failures right there next to the godly deeds of his people. Their darkest valleys found in the same place as their highest mountaintops.
I think of the hall of faith, Hebrews 11, the list of several of the heavy hitters of faithfulness to God. The author celebrates the incredible faithfulness of these people, but anyone who truly knows their stories would also remember their failures as well. Nearly all of the people listed there have great big glaring problems in their relationship with God, but he considers them faithful regardless.
There’s Noah. He built an ark in a desert land for this thing called “rain” they’d never heard of before. He was one of only 8 people saved to carry on humanity. But he also turned to alcohol after the events.
We see Abraham, father of faith, and his wife Sarah. They believed that God would give them an heir. And Abraham even trusted in God when he was commanded to sacrifice his son. This test to see whether the promise or the One Who Promised was more important to Abraham showed Abraham’s faith. Hebrews 11:19 even says that Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead.
But Abraham and Sarah weren’t perfect in this faith. They tried to do things their own way by having Abraham father a son through Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar. And Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his wife (saying she was his sister) fearing that he’d be killed or she’d be taken from him before the promise of a son between the couple could happen.
Jacob, the deceiver, lived up to his name by cheating his minutes-older twin brother from the firstborn birthright. He swindled several times throughout his life. Sure, he struggled with God, giving the nation of Israel it’s name, but it was partly because he needed God’s help when he met his once-swindled brother.
Joseph was certainly a good administrator. He saved many nations because he could interpret the dreams of Pharaoh. But he only found his way into that place because he flaunted the favoritism from his father in front of his brothers. And they decided to sell him into slavery to shut him up.
Then there’s Moses. He led the people of Israel out of slavery and gave them the Law of God. This showed his denial of being raised as an Egyptian by taking on his true heritage as a Hebrew. But man did he have a temper. It drove him to kill an Egyptian who treated an Israelite poorly, leading to his expulsion from Egypt. The anger made him break the stone tablets on which God wrote the ten commandments. And it even cost him the ability to set foot in the Promised Land because he hit a rock in his anger instead of speaking to it like God had commanded.
The list of Hebrews 11 comes to a non-Israelite. And more than that a prostitute, Rahab. This woman saved the Israelite spies and it brought her into the lineage of Jesus himself. But it’s never down played that she was once a pagan prostitute.
The list could go on and on. Gideon, a great judge who did much, but was found hiding in the valley when we first see him. Barak, another judge, but who wouldn’t move forward in God’s commands without having his safety blanket (his fellow judge and prophetess Deborah). Samson, probably the most famous judge of Israel, who failed to keep his vow for God mostly because of his wandering (nearly womanizing) eye. Jephthah, a further judge, the son of a prostitute, who made a foolish vow that he could’ve found an exception for but ended up sacrificing his daughter. King David, the great example of what a godly king looks like, but who also committed adultery with Bathsheba, conspired to dupe her husband, and when that failed had him killed.
So many of the people we find in bible stories have these very human faults. It reminds us that while perfection is the ultimate goal (and probably won’t ever be reached in this life), it’s not necessary for God to use us. We can be faithful followers of Jesus and still struggle with our own issues.
God knows that we’re broken people. People he wants to use so that his glory can shine through our weaknesses. If you’ve been feeling like you’re no Superman, good. We’re not expected to be before God can use us. We can be faithful, yet broken. God gives us permission. His word is filled with people he calls his friend or a person of God who’s just as messed up as we are.
This is one of the most different things about faith in God as opposed to other religions. We don’t have to be perfect to be used by God. He’ll love us no matter how messed up we are. We are called to more, but it’s the journey to that place that God will meet us…picking up the pieces of our brokenness.