by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
Last year, I discovered Bibleman for the first time. In case you didn't know, Bibleman is a super hero "Pledged to fight evil in the name of God." There are Bibleman videos, Bibleman books, and even Bibleman action figures. Teacher Miles Peterson, "transformed by the Word of the Lord and empowered by His strength, . . . lives out a pledge to fight evil in the name of God, under the identity of Bibleman." He wears a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, gospel boots, a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation, a sword of the Spirit, and more. He and his partners, Cypher and Biblegirl, have exciting adventures fighting the forces of evil. Apparently, they're quite popular among Christian kids.
I hope you'll pardon me if you're a Bibleman fan but I have a problem with all this: Super heroes and action figures are make-believe but the gospel is real. To me, it seems like a bad idea to mix the fantasy of action figures with the reality of the gospel. Kids need to know that the gospel is "real" in a sense that stories in videos and comic books are not (John 5:24). I've been a fan of super heroes like Superman since I was a kid but I don't remember ever thinking they were real in the sense that Jesus is real. If they're in the same show, what does that mean?
Our struggle on behalf of God isn't ". . . against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph. 6:12b NIV). The powers and weapons we need are not special swords but Godly qualities: ". . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Gal. 5:22b-23a NIV). These and other gifts from God can enable us to "stand against the devils schemes." (Eph. 6:11b NIV). Together, they comprise what Paul calls "the full armor of God." (Eph. 6:10-18 NIV). The "belt of truth" is the truth of the gospel that keeps us from being led astray by false teachers and doctrines. The "breastplate of righteousness" is the righteousness that comes from God, so that we will do and think the things God wants. Our footwear, "the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace," means that we live our lives according to the teachings of the gospel, which is founded on peace and love, rather than hatred and conflict. The "shield of faith" prevents us from being rocked by challenges to our beliefs, "the flaming arrows of the evil one." The "helmet of salvation" is our holy rebirth by the sacrifice of Jesus. And "the sword of the spirit" is the gospel itself, the truth by which all falsehood is revealed and against which all evil must inevitably fall.
The power of God can and does transform us but not like Miles Peterson's transformation into Bibleman. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit changed Peter from a man who was willing to kill for the faith (John 18:10-11) to one who was willing to die for it (John 21:18-19); from a coward who denied his friend Jesus to an apostle who would go on to help build the triumphant church. It transformed Paul from an enemy of the church, who was committed to destroying Christians and Christianity (Acts 8:3), to one of the first Christian missionaries (Acts 13:4). Through the ages, martyrs, missionaries, and other saints have defended the faith and protected the weak, without the benefit of "super powers." When we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, great things can happen to us too. We can become "super heroes" for God.
"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph. 6:13-17 NIV.)