I remember when I first learned that Superman had a weakness. Boy was I mad. I can recall laying on my bed with the rest of the kids in America watching this brother fly, stop bullets and bend steel. He could do anything and whoop anybody’s butt. Every kid wanted to be like Superman. I didn’t even care that he wasn’t black nor was he rocking a mini afro with a part on the side like me. His ethnicity didn’t matter. He was my hero. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere this jagged, glowing green rock appeared on the scene and just broke my 9 year old heart. I sat up on my bed almost out of breath as I watched Superman begin to lose, fail and break. And as he was losing so was I. I was losing my hope and ambition that I could be like him one day, strong, perfect and invincible. I saw no value in an imperfect super hero.
As I got older I found new hero’s to believe in that were outside of the Marvel Comics arena. And like Superman, I soon faced that gut-wrenching day when I saw them over taken by kryptonite. I was beyond angry. I was disgusted. I mean how hard could it be to just be perfect and stay perfect and avoid the things that could make you vulnerable to destruction?
Soon after becoming a Christian I saw this same theme in the Bible. Supermen failing! I vowed to learn from their mistakes and never be like them. And as I grew in my walk with God and accepted the call to ministry I was given my first cape and pair of red boots. I was a super hero. I became this young dude preaching about how pastors should be blameless, and calling out all the hypocrites in the church. I hit the streets with cameras and tracts targeting people walking in compromise. I wanted them to stop, be super hero’s, be better and change. I was loud, on fire and passionate. Soon I had an image and reputation to uphold. I had a following and an audience. I was super man, no flaws, weaknesses or errors. I would acknowledge some wrongs but nothing major enough to hinder the perception of myself I created.
Then I started getting tired, lonely, and wanted companionship. Deep inside I felt incomplete and all the warnings people gave me to be careful with women became muffled as I turned up the ipod of my own felt needs and desires. That’s when I first noticed it. It was glowing, green and was sitting right on my bed. My kryptonite had finally arrived. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I just made out with a girl from my church I had been getting close to. Now I had awakened desire in body and every now and then I would view porn to try and recapture that feeling. But it was only every now and then and we didn’t have sex so this can’t be my kryptonite! I can beat this. I can over power this. It’s not going to defeat me. I just need better boundaries and to get passed it. Well I didn’t. I couldn’t.
My kryptonite got stronger. Some nights I cried out to God and other nights I let her come over again knowing we said this was “the last time.” Other times I thought we could still be close as friends because we said it was “the last time.” And I preached and didn’t tell anybody because in my mind I thought why confess when I said it was “the last time.” But the last time never came. My kryptonite. And I thought to myself, I’m not having full blown intercourse so I’m not all the way defeated. My kryptonite. Then the truth surfaced and I was asked if I would step down from ministry. My kryptonite. Then as the news hit my church that I failed I heard the same familiar cries. I heard the same anger and pain I had the day when I was laying on my bed watching Superman die, only this time those tears and anger were directed at me.
I wanted to be better than Samson but I ended up being just like him. I knew exactly where Bathesheba lived, but still ended up in bed with her. And I never wanted to lie to cover my sin or hurt people in the process, but there were several Uriahs I tried to kill. I am no better then the very men I sought so hard to not be like. But in the end I was just as flawed as they were. I wanted to fly, stop bullets and bend steel. I wanted to be better. I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to preach perfect sermons and win millions to Christ in a single bound. I wanted to fly.
Pastor’s and church leaders know what I’m talking about. We fear our flaws being exposed. Or worst yet, we can start becoming detached from the reality that we’re not that much better then people we preach to. We don’t want to bomb, look stupid or not be praised. I don’t know a single minister who doesn’t struggle with how much of their weakness they should let others see. This is because we are the supermen/superwomen in the eyes of our church. And the church is laying on their beds watching us be and do everything they’ve spiritually dreamed of. They envy our purity, love, patience, wisdom, boldness and maturity. They praise us for it, tell their friends about it and we unconsciously love it. So we give them more and more; more stories of our victories, success and spiritual achievements. We don’t tell them we got all of our sermon illustrations from a book or how insecure we feel when nobody says “good word today doc.” After all, that stuff doesn’t sale tickets and fill church pews.
People don’t go the moves to watch Super hero’s boast in their weakness and people typically don’t fill churches to hear the pastor boast in his. So we give them what every real Marvel Comic fan wants, a Super hero with not flaws. And the churches are no different. We give the people want they want; a perfect pastor with a perfect marriage and all the people roar with elation.
What if your pastor’s accountability partner or wife or kids preached a sermon of what your pastor really struggles with, would you still follow him? Many people wouldn’t. We expect our leaders to have it all together and not make mistakes. We have a super hero like demand on men and when they do fail or mess up we can easily push them to the side and go looking for a new super man. And that’s our fear as pastors. We fear people finding out we can’t fly, stop bullets or bend steel. So we talk about our past sins, and pre conversion failings, many, many, many years ago, but not last week. We can’t talk about our real struggles openly because we know we could instantly lose moral creditability and possibly our jobs.
So we let people believe we are all that and then some. In essence we let them believe we are Superman. So we give them a Paul with no thorn in his side. And in doing so we are subtly boasting in our strictness and purity rather then God’s grace. Instead of showing people that we to are a work in progress we act as if we have already received our glorified body. Soon the people follow suit striving to be Super hero’s, that can’t relate to human weakness or sin. They become people who are overly judgmental and critical of sinners because they have lost sight of how unworthy they still are. They some how think we are better because we stopped fornicating and going to the club. We begin to pride our selves on what we don’t do and our religious activity. Then as we watch how sinners are gossiped about and treated poorly in the church we look on in dismay like “how could she, and I thought he was saved.” So everybody keeps their capes and red boots on real tight. Nobody can risk transparency because deep down inside we fear being scorned and looked at down on when people find out that we really couldn’t fly after all either.
No wonder the world calls the church hypocrites, because we are boasting in how sold-out we are, how pure we are and how holy we are, rather then how unworthy we still are. If we did that then God’s amazing grace would have to be the focus. His performance saves not ours. The less transparent we are as leaders about our struggles and kryptonite the more we unconsciously enforce salvation by works.
Imagine gong to the funeral of John Piper or Billy Graham, men known to love God. You would cringe hearing somebody say, “now these men did great things for God but they were still just two saved sinners. They blew it plenty of times and they are only in heaven today because they accepted the bountiful grace given through Jesus Christ.” It almost stings just saying it. We would much rather hear, “here lies two of the greatest most holy men of our generation, they did great exploits for God and we can rest assured they are with Jesus right now in glory.” Now that sounds better, but its not the truth. No matter how sanctified you get, and sinless you become you will never be sinless enough to enter Heaven based on your righteousness. So why are we so scared to be transparent and honest? Why do people messing up in the church still shock us? I think because it’s bad for business, it’s not what people want, but you know what? It’s what they need.
Our fear as ministers is if people knew how human we really were then maybe they wouldn’t believe in us. Yea you’re right, they probably wouldn’t and that’s exactly the point. They would stop looking to us as the Super hero’s of the church and finally be able to fix their eyes on Jesus, the Arthur and Finisher of our faith. As we take off our cape and red boots before or congregants the people will have no choice but to embrace the true Superman of Christianity Jesus Christ.
So maybe Marvel Comics had it right. Maybe it’s a good thing that they created kryptonite as Super Man’s weakness. I guess an imperfect Super hero is not so bad after all. I think it’s a reminder to us that we can still be used to affect the lies of people even if we are prone to failure, or if kryptonite is our weakness. And as Christians ministers and leaders it’s a reminder that no matter how sanctified we get, it’s our transparency and weakness that will reveal the real super of Christianity for people to hope in, just as much as our sermons and preaching will.