Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
1 John 5:21

Legendary illustrator Stan Lee (1922-2018)

No doubt you’ve heard the news. Stan “the Man” Lee, creator of the Marvel Comics franchise, is dead. His fertile imagination and business savvy led to the creation of Spider-Man, X-Men, Thor, Iron Man and many other so-called superheroes. I have no way of knowing, but I wonder if Stan (who was born Stanley Lieber and was Jewish) had knowledge of, or was influenced by, the superheroes of the Bible.

Lee's Marvel-ous universe

Take Gideon for instance, son of Joash of the tribe of Manasseh, who lived more than three-thousand years ago. You can read his story in Judges 6 – 8. The Bible tells us Gideon never imagined great things for himself. When the Angel of the LORD appeared to him one day and told him he had been chosen to overthrow the Midianite oppressors, he responded: “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
In other words, where’s the exit?

Pistacia palaestina, the terebinth

I imagine the angel stretching out under the shade of the terebinth tree. He wasn’t in a panic; the outcome was not in question. God had determined that Gideon’s inauspicious background would not be a deterrent to His plan. If anything, Gideon’s weakness would magnify God’s greatness. “I will be with you,” said the Angel of the LORD, “and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
Gideon, being the reluctant hero type, needed some reassurance. So, he asked God not once, not twice, but three times to give him a sign that he (Gideon) had, indeed, been chosen for the job. And the angel obliged each time, the result being that Gideon found himself with no choice but to take initial steps toward liberating his people. But then God did the most curious thing…
He began sending soldiers home before the fight.
Say what?
Gideon had started out with a force of thirty-two thousand men to face hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers, but that number soon shrunk to ten-thousand and, finally, just three hundred souls were chosen on the basis of whether or not they drank water with their hands cupped together. Yes, you read that right.

Nonetheless, it was these three hundred, Gideon’s band, who put the entire Midianite army to flight.
Talk about chutzpah!

Battle of Gideon Against the Midianites by Nicolas Poussin

Following this unexpected victory over the Midianites, the people swarmed Gideon, intent on making him their king. But the hero rejected their offer. He knew where he had come from; he remembered he was but dust.
And then the Bible tells us the oddest thing… Or, was it so odd? 
“I do have one request,” said Gideon, giving the matter further thought, “that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.”
Sounds reasonable enough… until we learn that Gideon intended on using the gold earrings to create an ephod, a gilded article of worship that would contravene the sacred Torah.
No, Gideon! Don’t do it!
But he did, and even if his intentions weren’t exactly to create an idol to worship, he stumbled into a gray zone where those around him, and those who followed, did exactly that. The superhero displayed a major flaw; he failed; and the gold ephod made from the earrings became a snare to him, his family, and the nation. Predictably enough, it wasn’t long after Gideon died that the Israelites fell again into base idolatry and departed from the LORD.
Forty dark years would pass before another superhero emerged, a man from the tribe of Issachar named Tola, son of Puah. I can’t tell you anything about him (the Bible gives us no information), but I imagine he was a lot like one of us – flawed, vulnerable and capable of greatness.
Flash forward to 2018…
As the year draws to a close, let us rejoice and be glad! “The LORD has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:3)
And in our joy, let us beware of idols (or anything that can become an idol in our lives). Oh, I’m not talking about the garden variety sort, statues of wood and stone and metal, or an arcane ephod made from earrings of gold. Rather, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Miracle Child, let us put to death our sinful nature and let us not be greedy or impure, for a greedy person is an idolater. (Colossians 3:5) And that is a real and very present danger in the world in which we live.
Remember this…
As a believer, you are called to be a superhero. The great are not chosen for who they are, but who they will become. Don’t worry, child of God; the Lord is with you as He was with Gideon in days of old. He will give you all you need to save the day and rescue the perishing. And as you go through life’s journey, you will do well to recall Uncle Ben’s admonition to his nephew, Peter, the future Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Enjoy your Christmas season, beloved, and let us keep ourselves from idols.
With much love and fervent prayers for your wholeness and your peace during this beautiful time of year.

In They Were Christians (published by Baker Books), Cristóbal tells the remarkable stories of twelve individuals, well-known for their secular accomplishments, who also professed the Christian faith.

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Cristóbal Krusen is a filmmaker and author. He founded Messenger Films in 1988.

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