I am getting farther and farther from the days of my childhood and, as such, the memories are fading somewhat. But, like everyone, certain memories have, for whatever reason, etched themselves indelibly into my brain.
Among those permanent recollections are those of my forays into superheroism.
I was about 5, I suppose. I had been given a white marker board and attached to it was a black marker on a string. Its purpose was to draw on the board, erase and repeat ad infinitum. But to me it seemed like the perfect substitute for Thor's hammer. I carefully removed the marker, string and all, from the board. Then I happily spent the next few hours twirling it around my head, vanquishing every foe. Everything in the universe was safe and secure under my care, until my mother came in and screamed, a bloodcurdling scream the likes of which I shall never forget.
For some reason, my mother saw what I had failed to pay attention to. Twirling that marker on a string around my head had resulted in about 10 billion black dots all over the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the windows ...
It could not have been more than a year later and the hammer of Thor had given way in my mind to the awesome power of the Incredible Hulk. Who needed a hammer when one could simply smash everything with his bare fists? But how to turn green, that would be the trick. That was not nearly as simply as the hammer had been.
It was then that I noticed the green shampoo. If memory serves correct it was called Prell. My grandmother had a bottle of it and the bathroom door had a lock. When my mother finally figured out where I was and managed to get in, I was the hulk in all of my green glory. Of course, I was not the only thing green. There was also the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the windows ...
It was never my desire to do harm, cause screaming, or make a mess. I simply wanted to help the hurting. Maybe the Lord used that desire in my heart to send me into the ministry. Regardless, I eventually learned that real heroes are not always loud and destructive. Real heroes, in fact, often lay down their lives for others.
The greatest hero I know is Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:4 says that he is the one who "gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world." The God of all power, the one who made the entire universe in just six days, the one who holds that universe together (Col. 1:16-17), became flesh and died for us. We faced an enemy against which we could not defend ourselves, one 1 Peter 5:8 describes as "a roaring lion, (who) walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
We also faced expectations we could never meet, that of the living up to glory of God (Romans 3:23). Seeing us in such a mess due to mankind's own sin, Jesus did the most heroic thing imaginable. Who would ever think of dying when he did not have to? And who would think of dying even for people who hated him?
Jesus does not have to pretend to be a hero; he is a hero. His heroism was not shown by him swinging a hammer around his head, it was shown when he calmly laid down and allowed nails to be hammered through his hands and feet. His heroism was not seen in the color green, it was seen in the rich red of his own royal blood.
It may not make a good poster or ever be a billion-dollar movie franchise, but this hero is real, and that is the best kind of hero of all.
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., and the author of several books which are available at www.wordofhismouth.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.