In my last post, I told you why Jesus is my favorite superhero. Today, instead of telling you all the ways Jesus is like a superhero, I’d like to tell you the ways he isn’t like one; or at least not like one specific one—Superman. You see Superman has a motto that we are familiar with: “He fights for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Sounds pretty good, right? And it seemed to work out okay for Superman but in this blog, let me tell you why Jesus doesn’t fight for any of those things.
Jesus Didn’t Fight for the American Way
The first thing we have to do here is to define what the American way is. There are some obvious answers to that question: The American way is democracy. Capitalism might also be considered part of the American way. Those, to me, are the most obvious answers, but I had a couple of other ideas about things that I think represent the American way:
- The 44-ounce Super Big Gulp
- IHOP all-you-can-eat pancakes
- The five-dollar cup of coffee
- Flaming Hot Cheetos
- McDonalds extra value meal
- Reality TV including but not limited to American Idol, America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Toddlers in Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
There are some good words to describe the American way: “Freedom.” “Democracy.” “Opportunity.“ Those are good words, but there is another one that I think more accurately describes the American way: It’s “more.” The quest for more; more money, more sex, more clothes, more likes, more food, more flavors, more ounces. Check out what Jesus says about this American pursuit:
“Be on your guard. against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” — Luke 12:15
In this statement Jesus is telling us that life shouldn’t be all about our possessions and yet, its safe to say, that most of us spend a good amount of time and money adding to our possession and thanks to Amazon Prime we can now do it in 2 days or less without paying for shipping. I’d also guess that most of us give away more clothes than most of the people in the rest of the world have. Check out what Jesus says to all the clothes horses out there:
“I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”– Matthew 6:25
How much of our life has become about what we eat, what we drink, what we wear? We love good food. We Yelp new restaurants. We never miss a meal. Then when that doesn’t go the way we want it we spend even more money on Nutrisystem or Weightwatchers to lose the weight. And each new body style means new shopping opportunities. As far as I can see, Jesus didn’t come in search of the American way. In many ways he contradicted it.
How often is your life about more? Maybe it’s time to do a little self-evaluation in this area. Most of us would say that our life isn’t about more. We aren’t following this part of the American way, but this mentality has a way of creeping into our lives:
- Has your life become focused on your next promotion?
- Are your goals centered around growing your bank account?
- When it comes to your home are you never quite satisfied with it’s condition? Is there always something more you need to do?
- Are you content with who your children are or are you always pressing them for more?
“More” is the American way and I can tell you this, Jesus didn’t come down to fight for it.
Jesus Didn’t Fight for Truth; He Embodied It
Let me read you a controversial statement that Jesus made.
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” –John 14:5-7
There are a lot of people who have a hard time with this statement. It sounds cocky. It seems very limiting. Jesus is saying that spirituality is a one-way street; it all goes through me. It’s not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Mary. Not Buddha.
Let me tell you why this statement is controversial and how people often miss the point. People like to think that there are many ways to find God. You can be Jewish or Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness. That all these different religions are all saying the same thing and pointing to the same God. I had one person describe this concept like different learning styles. We all learn differently so God approaches us with different styles. Here’s where that logic breaks down: the different learning styles idea makes sense if what is being taught is the same…but it’s not.
Islam denies that Jesus is the son of God and that he didn’t die on the cross. Hindus believe that you have to earn your way to heaven and you do that by being reincarnated over and over and over. Buddhists don’t even believe in God. Judaism denies Jesus altogether. Doesn’t sound like God is saying the same thing to me. If the same God is sending out all those different learning styles than he has multiple personality disorder.
I know this sounds narrow but there are not many ways to God. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. There may be many ways to answer the God question or many ways to meditate or many ways to describe the afterlife. But there are not many ways to God. Jesus is the only way because he was the only one who made that sacrifice.
Let me see if I can describe that one more way: I just got a 50cc scooter; it’s called a Honda Ruckus. It’s 10 years old and needed a lot of work, but now its beautiful and so much fun to drive! There are a lot of things that I’ve had to learn in the last several weeks about riding a scooter. The first is, when you ride it don’t smile unless you want bugs in your teeth. The second is, stay focused. The other lesson I’ve learned (and this is the important one) is that there are a lot of different ways to get to where you are going. You can’t take a Ruckus on the freeway so if you want to get to the beach you have to go down Miramar Rd. to Carroll Canyon Rd. to Sorrento Valley Rd. to Carmel Mountain Rd. to El Camino Real. There are a lot of ways to get to the places you want to go, but there is one place I want to ride my Ruckus that I haven’t been able to get to–Coronado Island. There are all kinds of roads to get to places around San Diego, but there is only one way to get to Coronado Island on a Ruckus—its an island so you have to take the bridge. It’s just the only way.
Look there are a lot of ways you can study God. There are a lot of ways to learn meditation. There are a lot of ideas you can research. There are a lot of theologies you can study. But there is only one way to get to God because there was only one person willing to make that sacrifice for you. When Jesus is saying that He is the way, what He is saying is that He is making a way. That there is a great distance between God and us. God is perfect and we simply don’t measure up to his perfection. Not even close. There is no way we can qualify for heaven on or own. So Jesus made a way to connect with God. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us. And here’s how it’s controversial: No one else in history every made that way; no one ever made that same sacrifice. Not Mohammed or Buddha or Socrates. Jesus is the only one willing to do what it took to close the gap between God and man. So, yes, Jesus is the only way, but he’s the only way because he’s the only one willing to make that sacrifice. Jesus is the bridge that will get you where you want to go.
Do you see what I mean now? Jesus doesn’t fight for truth. He is the truth and the only truth.
Jesus Didn’t Fight for Justice
It seems like this is a no brainer for a superhero. You fight for justice. You fight against injustice in the world. You fight against Loki and Magneto and Lex Luthor and Two-Face and Dr. Octopus and all the evil they represent.
First off, let me tell you something about justice: God is a God of justice. He loves good and hates evil. Justice is in God’s character. That word is used over 130 times in the Bible and when God talks about justice he’s not messing around.
- Psalm 11:7 “For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.”
- Psalm 33:5 “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.”
- Psalm 89:14 “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.”
Justice is the very nature of God. He is justice. Not only that, God wants us to be defenders of justice.
- Exodus 23:6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.”
- Deuteronomy 27:19 “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”
- Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
God wants us to fight injustice. God wants us to be on the lookout for injustice. He wants injustice to turn our stomach like it does His. So it would seem that Jesus and Superman have this in common. The fight for justice. But here is the crazy thing: Jesus didn’t fight for justice.
Never was someone more falsely accused. Jesus healed thousands, loved greatly, spoke kindly, forgave freely, and still he was convicted. He was beaten. He was whipped. He was humiliated. Then he was crucified. Jesus never once fought back for justice or stood up for Himself. Why didn’t he? God is a God of justice. God wants us to be a people of justice, so why didn’t Jesus fight for His own justice? Because there is no way we could ever justify ourselves before God. God loves justice, but we can’t ever do enough to pay the price for our sin. We would never be worthy of forgiveness. Someone would have to pay the price for that injustice. So Jesus did it. Even when he was wrongly accused and wrongly beaten and wrongly convicted and wrongly crucified. He went through all of that for us.
Jesus, the Anti-Superman
- Jesus didn’t fight for the American way. He would probably fight against it
- Jesus didn’t fight for truth. Jesus embodies it
- Jesus didn’t fight for justice. He was unjustly treated for you and me.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us forgiven. It leaves us free. It leaves us with a new purpose. Jesus didn’t fight injustice but he gave us the power to fight it for him. It’s what we’ve been called to do. He didn’t fight for justice so we could receive justice and then share that same compassion with people around us.