Avengers: Endgame won’t be released until April 26, but it broke the internet yesterday.
Six hours after tickets went on sale, the film had already surpassed the number of ticket sales in the first twenty-four hours for the previous record holder, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Both AMC and Fandango experienced crashes that kept fans from buying tickets. “I have never seen anything like this,” tweeted Fandango’s managing editor.
Why is the latest Avengers film already such a phenomenon?
One answer is that the movie is billed as “Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films” in the franchise. Fans who have watched the others are obviously compelled to watch the series end.
But the larger story here is that we are a culture in dire need of heroes.
Movie critic Erin Free wrote in 2016, “Whether it’s random terrorist attacks, over-population, rising crime rates, the threat of financial collapse, the mental hangover of the Global Financial Crisis, prejudice, ignorance, infectious killer viruses, or just traffic congestion, our world is on a constant knife edge. And in troubled times, people enjoy escapism, and perhaps secretly wish that there were superheroes around to hose down all the horrors of the world.”
Since Free published his article, twelve more superhero movies have appeared in theaters.
Clearly, our need for heroes is not declining.
Creatures dependent on our Creator
We have always needed heroes or, more specifically, a Hero. From our beginning, humans have been creatures dependent on our Creator.
- S. Lewis: “God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.
“That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there” (Mere Christianity).
Because we were created to depend on our Creator, Satan has tempted us across human history to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). He knows that when we depend on ourselves rather than our Lord, we inevitably fail. We yield to temptation. We hurt others and ourselves. The long tale of humanity is the story of humans rebelling against their Maker and harming each other in the process.
And the enemy knows that when we trust in anyone or anything more than we trust in God, we grieve our Father’s heart. Our Creator made us for intimacy with himself. Satan knows this and delights in tempting us into self-reliance that lures us away from our Lord.
Is our enemy’s strategy working today?
“The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity”
Matthew Kelly is a New York Times best-selling author and internationally acclaimed speaker and business consultant. His latest book is titled, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity: How Modern Culture is Robbing Billions of People of Happiness.
Here’s the lie: “Holiness is not possible.”
According to Kelly, we think that holiness is possible for other people—“our grandmothers or some medieval saint”—but not for us.
He notes: “This lie takes us out of the game and turns us into mere spectators in the epic story of Christianity that continues to unfold in every generation. This one lie is largely, if not primarily, responsible for ushering in the post-Christian modern era throughout Western civilization. It may be the devil’s greatest triumph in modern history. This is the holocaust of Christian spirituality.”
When we believe the lie that we cannot be holy, we forfeit our ability to impact our culture effectively. As a result, we face a crisis which is “the natural result of us not living the Christian faith dynamically enough to convince society that what they have been told about us is lies. This has been furthered by our desperate need to be loved and accepted, which has led us to choose to live in ways that cause us to blend in with people of no faith or opposing faiths.”
Kelly is absolutely right. If the culture does not see something attractively different about us, why would they want what we have? If we do not believe that our God is big enough to make us holy, why would we believe that he is big enough to change our unholy world?
Three steps to holiness that changes the world
The good news is that nothing about Christ has changed in our post-Christian era.
When Peter and John were made to stand trial before the most powerful men in Israel, Peter boldly preached the gospel to them. The rulers were astonished by the apostles’ courage and “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
What God’s Spirit did in and through them, he stands ready to do in and through us. How?
One: Humbly admit that we need a hero who is not us.
Jesus’ first beatitude is the foundation for all the rest: “How blest are those who know their need of God” (Matthew 5:3 NEB). Scripture promises: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).
Two: Ask the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives and empower us with his strength.
Three: Trust our crises and challenges specifically and intentionally to God.
When the first Christians were confronted with threats against their lives and movement, they immediately prayed for boldness (Acts 4:29). As a result, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (v. 31).
Tomorrow, we’ll focus on practical ways to live out our faith with boldness and humility. For today, let’s agree that we can and should.
Matthew Kelly: “There is nothing more attractive than holiness. When somebody actually lives the teachings of Jesus Christ, it is astoundingly attractive to all men and women of goodwill.”
Let’s prove Kelly right today.