I loved superheroes when I was a kid, way back in the 1970s. My brother and I never missed the Batman cartoon show on Saturday mornings. We’d spend the rest of the morning running around the house with sheets tied around our necks. In my tweens and teens I devoured my favorite comic books, Spider-man and Batman. I’ve passed my love for superheroes to at least one of my kids. My nine-year old, for example, dreams up stories for his very own super team, The Ferocious Five.
Superheroes are more popular than ever. Today we have so many ways to sate the superhero craving. Comic books are serious business these days with really high production values--and a corresponding price point. Some of the most successful programs on television are superhero shows, and not just the ones for kids. And, of course, more than anything else, the serial movies featuring the Avengers, Superman, Thor, Ironman, the X-men, and my favorites still, Spider-man and Batman, are ushering in a second golden age for superheroes.
For all this excitement and fantasy about superheroes, we seldom give much thought to real heroism. We generally recognize it when we see it, but it never looks like the spectacular thing pop culture envisions. If anyone actually tries to be a hero the attempt usually blows-up in his face. Heroes, it seems, just happen. A grandmother working at a supermarket saves a man from a burning van. A young U.S. Marine throws himself on a live grenade in Afghanistan saving his friends at great cost to himself. A man falls off the platform onto the subway tracks in front of an oncoming train, another passenger jumps down to pull the man to safety. All of these people are real life heroes. But none of them expected to be a hero even in the moments before acting. And none of them sought accolades for their actions (the Marine received a Medal of Honor). Each just happened to be in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, almost as if by appointment.
Of course, in every case, it was indeed an appointment: one set by a sovereign God. That grandmother who saved the man from a fiery death was where God put her; she responded to God by doing the right thing, at the time He orchestrated, so that His will would prevail over that of by His enemy (Job 42:2). It’s fun to play at being a hero or to enjoy superhero shows, movies, and games. But, when I talk seriously about heroism with my kids, I emphasize that the true heroics that seemingly happen by chance are not by chance at all. I encourage them to live so they can respond to the appointments God sets for them, and to do the right thing, whether great or small, to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom to His praise and glory. Christ is the true, great hero of God’s story, and we, God’s children, have roles in His story. He may call any one of us to be the hero in the scene at any “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14 ESV).
My colleague and friend at ReFrame Media, Ron VandenBurg, Senior Producer for Kids Corner at ReFrame Media, writes more about teaching kids about true heroism in his article, God’s Kind of Hero. Right now, Kids Corner is offering free resources for family devotions and teaching--for “such a time as this,” when the prevalence of superheroes in pop culture opens the door to great teaching moments. Check out the super-fun series from Kids Corner.