Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What Can Christians Learn from Spider-Man

Jesus Christ is the ultimate standard of every Christian.  But through our earthly heroes – whether real or fictional – we receive reflections of the good and praiseworthy qualities that we can fully see in Jesus Christ.  And, at the same time, the good and praiseworthy qualities that we find in our heroes – real or fictional – are traced back or projected towards our admiration of the supreme worth of Jesus Christ. 

As far as I can remember, Spider-Man has always been one of my most favorite fictional characters ever.  However, it’s not only because of the coolness and uniqueness of the character that I get to love Spider-Man but, most importantly, because of the admirable qualities that make him a genuine role model despite of being a fictional character.  And Christians can learn some really deep lessons from Spider-Man. 


Let’s start with the most obvious – Spidey’s iconic motto: “With great power comes great responsibility.”  From what I’ve written about it before:
It simply means that responsibility always accompanies power, and the amount of responsibility is directly proportional to the amount of power; hence, the greater the power, the greater the responsibility.  And what is this responsibility?  To do the right thing, of course!  If you found yourself possessing the capability or are in the position to do the right thing, then you should do it.  Or as Martin Sheen (as Uncle Ben in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man) put it, “…if you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things.  That's what at stake here.  Not a choice, responsibility.”
Therefore, if Spidey is put in a situation where he knows he can do something good, he jumps into it with no hesitation.  When facing a difficult choice, but it’s apparent that it’s the right thing to do, he will still choose it.  He takes responsibility of the good he could do with the power he found himself having.      

In the same way, we Christians have been given much “power” (2 Timothy 1:7, Acts 1:8, Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 3:20, Luke 10:19, etc.), hence, we should act on the “responsibility” that has been entrusted to us (Matthew 28:19, Matthew 5:13-16, Luke 10:30-37, Hebrews 10:24, Titus 2:7-9, etc.).  Nonetheless, we should not think that we have to immediately go “save the world” (besides, saving the world was Jesus’ job, not ours).  Yes, Spider-Man has been instrumental or has contributed to saving the world a couple of times.  But it’s only because of his consistent willingness to take responsibility and do his best in every chance he can do good that he developed the moral instinct and preparedness to do good in whatever scenario, regardless of being big or small in scale.  Likewise, we should just do the best we can in doing good whenever the opportunity or situation calls for it – whether it be small or big (Luke 16: 10).


An integral facet established by Spider-Man co-creator, Stan Lee, for the character to make him relatable is how his alter ego, Peter Parker, is constantly struggling with personal troubles such as financial difficulties and getting bullied (especially during his earlier days).  Moreover, his personal life is even affected negatively because of prioritizing the good he does as Spider-Man – he’s always late on appointments and school, benefits and opportunities are sacrificed, and even his relationships with the important people in his life suffer.  It’s as if he can’t catch a break.  What’s even worse is, due to the works of haters like J. Jonah Jameson, any good that he does is unappreciated by the public as he’s branded as a “menace.”  But regardless of the circumstance he’s in or any consequences it might cost him personally, he makes no excuses and he will do the right thing at every opportunity. 

Facing difficulties is always part of being a Christian.   But even in the midst of whatever degree or form of difficulties, just as Spider-Man constantly brings justice to the being of his Spider-Man identity, we should likewise constantly uphold our Christian identity.  We, Christians, are to obey Christ’s commandments and pursue God’s glory in all things.  With the same consistency and selflessness that Spider-Man displays in doing the right thing, so should we likewise display in doing right in every situation.  No.  Matter.  What. 

Doing the right thing is often not easy.  There will be times we will be sacrificing a personal benefit or advantage.  And there will be times that a good deed will go unappreciated.  And there will be even times when the right thing to do is an unpopular one.  But we learn from Spider-Man that we ought to do the right thing, no matter how hard it proves to be. 

For us Christians, if it’s worth doing for God’s glory, then we need to do it.  Even at the point of death (Revelations 2:10).            


Spider-Man displays inspiring resiliency.  Whatever antagonisms and difficulties he faces as both Spider-Man and Peter Parker, he continues to fight on.  He will do the best that he can in any situation to do the right thing and to overcome the challenges in front of him.

But he does fall sometimes.  He gets discouraged.  There are times he wishes that he never became Spider-Man.  There are times that he wants to quit – or even had quit.  Despite the spider-powers, he is human after all and subject to human failings.  However, he never permanently stays down.  He eventually rises back to his feet.  Stronger than ever.  He presses onwards.  He continues being Spider-Man.    

Resiliency – and, most importantly, faithfulness – in all circumstances is necessary for a Christian.  In discussing my life slogan, “Keep Calm and Press On”, I wrote, with regards to Philippians 3:7-14:
Despite the tremendous amount of hardships and struggles that he had undergone in his life, Paul remained enthusiastic, resolute, and kept moving forward.  Why?  For he understood the great value of this future prize that God has set for him in Heaven, and that no earthly pleasure or glory can ever come close in matching that.  So he worked hard for the glory of God – storing riches in Heaven that will last for eternity – rather than seeking earthly pleasures and glory that are all temporary anyway.  In everything, he gave it his all, no matter what.  He knew that every sacrifice, every pain, every drop of effort, is going to be worth it; the glory and happiness that he would receive as reward far outweigh the sufferings that he experienced in this world while working for God’s glory.

While Spider-Man probably only has a noble – but incomplete – sense of altruism that keeps him fighting, Christians have the advantage of having an infinitely valuable Heavenly Prize to look forward to – a Reward that will more than make up for all sacrifices done in this world.  Hence, don’t Christians have more reason to fight for?  Don’t Christians have more reason to be resilient about?  Don’t Christians have more reason to rise up after falling?  Don’t Christians have more reason to press onwards?  Don’t Christians have more reason to continue upholding their Christian identity? 


With the many problems that he experiences in his life, and with his strong sense of duty of doing right no matter what, it would come to no surprise if he ended up being a burdened and grave superhero.  But, ironically, he is quite the opposite.  Spider-Man is one of the most joyful superheroes around.  Yes, there are some times that he feels that being Spider-Man is a curse, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, he eventually gets over his brooding.  Most of the time, he enjoys being Spider-Man and delights in what he does.  And that is reflected on his cheerful, goofy attitude when he goes around doing his Spider-Man duties. 

In the same way, despite the hardships, there is much to rejoice about as a Christian (1 Peter 1:8, Philippians 4:4, Luke 10:20, etc.).  I no longer need to go at length discussing how or in what ways.  Yes, we have crosses to bear (Luke 9:23), and pain and struggles will always be part of the Christian life, but there is much joy in the presence of Christ.  And it should be apparent for the world to see as we live out our Christian identity and do our Christian duties.

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