Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Even Superheros Can't Do Everything

While watching the movie Hancock with my children the other night – an entertaining though not outstanding anti-superhero movie – I thought to myself that I would not want to be a superhero. It seems to me that, regardless of one's superpower, the hero can never really counteract all the evil in the world. I don't know of a superhero who can simultaneously be in multiple places, yet evil acts occur all the time in places near and far. So how is a superhero to choose which events to respond to and which ones to ignore? If I had superpowers, this dilemma could potentially paralyze me. At the very least it would leave me with enormous feelings of guilt because for every good deed I accomplished I would know that there were any number of other potential good deeds I couldn't do.

Although I am not a superhero, I still wrestle with this dilemma. I am aware of far more situations where I would like to help than I can possibly respond to. I don't have the physical, financial, time or other resources to do all the good deeds that I would like to. I try not to let this paralyze me, choosing to do that which I am able rather than throwing up my hands in despair, but at times the burden of what I wish I could do but can't does weigh on my mind. In some degree I wish I were a superhero so that perhaps I could at least increase my ability to do good in this world.

When I feel this burden of my limitations, perhaps it would benefit me to think again of Jesus. Although he was God and had potentially all the powers of his deity (godness) available to him, when he walked the earth he to some degree limited those powers. Although he healed many people, he didn't heal them all, neither those who were physically near at hand nor those at a distant. Was he aware of the sufferings of people outside of the place he was at any given moment? Did the injustices of the world weigh on him as he walked the dusty roads? Did the limitations of his humanity place a heavy burden on his mind and spirit? I don't see a clear answer to these questions in the Bible. What I do see is Jesus responding to some needs but not all. Surely he does not ask more of us than he himself was able to do.

Confronted with my own limitations I should also remember that I am not alone. I am not the only one who can respond to the needs of the world, not the only one who can speak out against injustice and offer healing and comfort to the wounded and suffering. This job is not mine alone. The body of Christ known as the Church has been called to this task. In some areas the Church responds quite well. We give very generously to meet certain needs. Unfortunately others remain hidden, unknown or simply unpopular. I think of the response much of the evangelical church in America had when AIDS first came on the scene. Rather than demonstrating compassion and care, some chose to judge and condemn. Thankfully we have seen improvement in this, although I still see too many instances where AIDS sufferers are treated as pariahs, responsible for their own misfortune. This is only one example. When it comes to suffering, need, injustice and other expressions of evil in the world, is it the place of the Church to judge whether those enduring evil “deserve” it or not? Or should we simply do all we can to defeat evil where possible and where not possible to at the very least offer comfort and assistance to its victims?

I don't want to be a person who lives content in his own little world, oblivious and unconcerned about the needs around me and the injustice in the world. I cannot respond to all of it, but I can respond to some of it. I can ask God to lead me by the Spirit to know where and how I should act. I can regularly evaluate my use of my time, energy, finances and other resources and ask where I might give more. Then, when I have done that which I am able to do, I need to leave the other things to God and not feel the pressure to be a superhero. Because even superheros can't address all the evil in the world.

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