I’ve always appreciated super hero stories (especially Marvel ones) not just because they excite my inner six year old, but because they provide a unique and fun opportunity to explore the human condition or what it means to be human. My favorite characters are not the benevolent demi-gods like Superman or the menacing villains like Dr. Doom, my preference tends to be towards the more human heroes or often even something called antiheros. Antiheros are neither totally the good guys nor fully the bad guys. They are far more complicated than that and with their mixed motives, can function as the cruelest villains when their inner demons get the upper hand, and can serve as the bravest of heroes when it either benefits them or the rare instance where they are compelled to pure goodness. These characters by every measure are wicked and should be in prison as no matter how many school buses of children they save from impending doom as they have committed great atrocities typically including cold blooded murder.
In life it’s very easy for us to simply see the world as a battle of good versus evil and we almost always place ourselves in the former camp as we over-simplify causes we disagree with and even teams we root against. The Christian life can especially be viewed in this lens and it can cause much discomfort and misfortune in the Christians inner most self. Every true Christian affirms that we were once the villains deserving the just punishment of our God and Jesus came as the only hero to take the punishment from God that we deserved in our place and now we can live forever with God. This truth in a very real sense turns us from villains to heroes as we repent unto salvation and seek the will of God not our own anymore, but again there is a danger of oversimplification.
We will one day indeed be without sin, it will not just be the case that God sees Jesus instead of our sins as in heaven, we will be completely made new and will be the hero like Superman. We are not however the hero when we become Christians, though as we grow in love for the Lord we start to look more and more like the good guy. We are now in this life the antihero that I mentioned earlier, we are a mix of a fallen human soul that lives for itself and a the hosts of a Holy Spirit that brings us a new holy nature and helps us grow more and more in love with our savior each and every day. Christian growth can never get us to the point where we would not deserve hell if not for Christ’s mercy. Christian growth inevitably reveals this reality exponentially and it can be a danger to our walk with the Lord when we don’t understand it.
Theologians often talk about Christian growth as two line charts, the first is obvious but the latter is sometime missed. The first line chart of Christian growth is obviously our growth in Godliness; true Christians are always growing more and more like Christ and though they may have temporary set backs on the chart that line is always heading in an upward trajectory. The line chart of growth in Godly character is always going up but will never reach God’s perfect standards. The other line chart of Christian growth is our understanding of the distance between our sins and God’s holiness and that chart is constantly heading in a downward direction for true Christians. New Christians never realize just how truly awful they are before God even if they see their need to be saved from sins. If God allowed new Christians to realize how great their sin is when they are first saved they would lock themselves in a room and cry for the rest of their lives. Instead, we realize the gulf between us and God more and more as God produces humility and shows us our need for Him. This all means that many Christians will get the impression after years of Christian growth that they are more sinful than the day they accepted Christ and here is where the simple world of heroes and villains will destroy Christians.
Many Christians come to the conclusion that when they started the Christian life they were heroes and now they are villains because they have realized how truly wicked are their hearts. Other Christians may realize they were villains or antiheros upon conversion but as they struggle with the same sins of years past they don’t believe they are any less villainous than before. All of this produces the great plagues of Christian doubt and despair. We use our false premises with the reality of our sin to surmise we must not truly be Christians and/or God must be very angry with us, though ironically our heartbrokenness over our sins is the chief confirmation of true Christian faith. In reality the person who should doubt their salvation is the supposed Christian that thinks himself basically the good guy and is seldom reminded of the severity of even our smallest sins.
Let’s change the mentality and embrace the antihero we are and the monster that lives within. Realizing we are more villain than hero and never could be the hero this side of eternity produces real Christian fruit. Embracing the monster inside us like the symbiote that taints Venom’s mind shows us our constant need of God’s grace and reminds us of God’s great love in giving salvation to people as bad as us. When we abandon the oversimplifications and realize the monster will always be there we can better show others mercy and we will soon become far more focused upon God’s glory than our feeble glory.
Christian brothers and sisters, look into the mirror of your souls today. When you see your horns and tumors don’t ignore them or lose hope. Instead, I urge you to praise God for his mercy and ask for his help in fighting against the sin you understand more and more each day. Today if you think your already the good guy and don’t know Christ as your savior, look at the character and standards of Jesus the only truly good man and compare your relative goodness to his perfection. When you see Christ’s perfect goodness you must realize we all fall short of God’s standards, so accept the villain that we all are. Next repent and trust in Christ to save you by taking the punishment that you deserve.