I enjoy reading Relevant magazine with its focus on people in their twenties and early thirties. Many of the articles stretch me, keep me aware of new trends and sometimes surprise me. Consider the cover article on our need for heroes published in the July-August 2014 issue. This was not about mentors or well-known celebrities. It’s about comic-book characters, Batman, Superman, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It describes the appeal of these superheroes, especially among young people looking for their identities. The article shows the biblical origins of many superheroes and what they can teach us about our calling.
As I read, my mind went to the heroes I had as a kid and to some of my biblical heroes. Many are invisibles (see last week’s newsletter) or individuals who make brief appearance in Scripture–people like Caleb, Esther, Barnabas and Gamaliel.
Remember Gamaliel? He appeared as a voice of reason in Acts 5 where the religious leaders were violently jealous, with out-of control anger and determination to murder two apostles. As we read about Gamaliel in this setting we see a genuine leadership hero who was:
- highly competent–an admired scholar
- calm and respectful of leaders who probably did not deserve respect
- sensitive to the emotions in his audience
- without an attitude of angry confrontation or attempts to manipulate
- aware of the facts surrounding the current situation
- articulate and able to present possible outcomes and scenarios
- willing to step back and let others reach their own decisions without interference.
I once taught in a graduate school where the faculty was known for their sometimes-raucous disagreements. One faculty member would listen silently and then make a comment that set everything in perspective. He never leapt tall buildings or dressed like a comic book character but he became one of my heroes because of the characteristics he modeled. The Relevant article argues that some of today’s “Hollywood marvels” show admirable traits and demonstrate ‘truth in unexpected places.”
It’s a cliché to say that we don’t have many widely-known heroes today. Maybe that’s why people in the movies or video games are so widely followed. But to somebody, each of us is a hero, maybe in the form of a parent, teacher, leader or neighbor. Who looks to you as a superhero and what kind of a hero are you becoming? Please think about this and leave a comment.