The Image of Courage

The Image of Courage

This is old news, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months, there’s a Justice League movie coming out.

This is going to be huge. Think about it. Superheroes joining together to defeat the forces of evil? This hasn’t been done in filmmaking history…well, at least since the last Avengers movie.

I mean seriously, when did one superhero stop being enough? Are the bad guys really getting that much more difficult to beat? Or is it that our culture has a crazy obsession with over-the-top action and daring heroes?

I’m going to place my money on the second answer.

This is the image of “coolness” for our society. Superheroes are the role models for today’s boys and young men; and for good reason. See, I believe that as young men we are given an inherent desire from God to fight evil and be courageous. That’s why so many people are drawn to these types of movies. That’s why superheroes are so popular. They epitomize these desires. However, the problem arises in how we’ve come to define our terms. What if “evil” and “courage” have lost their true meanings? What if rather than being exaggerated in movies, they have actually come to be undervalued? What if our culture’s version of evil and courage are really dumbed down shadows of the real thing?

Defining “Evil”

In the quest to make money and hold the attention spans of viewers, movie directors have “upped the ante” on physical violence. It’s not enough to just capture the hero. Now entire cities are being destroyed. Evil is blatantly visible and physical. Destruction shows it’s consequences and supervillains give it a face. While this appears to be an extravagant display, it actually lessens evil of its power and diminishes its reality. See, the Bible tells us that evil is first and foremost spiritual. It is only manifested physically. Secondly, the face of evil does not look like a supervillain. It looks like you and me. As sinners, each of us has evil stored up in our hearts. We are the problem. Defeating the physical manifestation of evil is like trying to cut a weed. While it is certainly good to do so, the weed will just grow back. To defeat evil in our world we must seek to pull out the root. It must first be addressed spiritually through the heart. Evil is much more dangerous, deeper, and widespread than our superhero movies would have us imagine.

Defining “Courage”

The second term that has been “underdefined” in our society is courage. We understand this to be the ability to face fears and overcome obstacles. While this is true, we’ve subconsciously attached another necessity to the definition: glory. Yes, superheroes face fears and overcome obstacles, but they are also almost instantly praised for their accomplishments. If this isn’t clearly done in the movie, it is at least done by the viewers watching it. As a result, honor and praise are expected to quickly follow at courage’s heals. However, doesn’t the immediate gratification of courage diminish the courage involved? In other words, wouldn’t it be more courageous to face fears and overcome obstacles knowing that you almost certainly won’t get recognized for it? Is it not more courageous to do something purely out of faith than out of personal will or gain? I think that the clear answer is yes. True courage relies solely on faith, and runs from personal glory.

True Courage

So what does true courage look like? Is it a superhero flying through the air and single-handedly defeating the forces of evil?

No.

True courage, defeating true evil, is seen in a much different image:

Jesus dying on a cross…while being hated.

That is courage, and it is an example to us. His death was not seen as glorious to anyone at the time, even his disciples. However, his courageous act addressed evil at its root. He paid the penalty for our sins and put to death the power of sin in our hearts.

So what does this look like for us? True courage defeating true evil might mean missing a party to stay home and pray for a friend who is struggling. True courage might mean sitting with the “uncool” kid during lunch to combat the evil forces of depression that may be taking hold in his or her life. True courage might mean telling your friend about Jesus even though they will probably think you’re a loser. True courage is being willing to show your brokenness and admit your faults – all things I continue to fail at time and time again.

True courage is having faith in God’s eternal promises and being willing to compromise immediate personal glory.

True courage means putting away the superhero costume, and picking up a cross instead.

“Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

True courage relies solely on faith and runs from personal glory.

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Russ Allen

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