heroes, villains and the power of community

Truly great leaders are broken people.

It's what makes them truly great.
I unconsciously learned this lesson as a kid reading comic books. Batman wouldn't have existed if Bruce Wayne hadn't experienced the loss of his parents. Spiderman would never have spun his first web if Peter Parker hadn't sobbed over his Uncle Ben dying on the sidewalk. Even Superman became broken when he realized that for all of his great powers he couldn't stop the people around him from being hurt, getting sick or dying.

This is how heroes are created.

What's strange is that many criminals had similar back stories... except the majority of them didn't have people around them to love on them through it. There was no "Alfred," "Aunt May" or "Ma Kent" for the Joker, Doctor Octopus or Lex Luthor.

This is how villains are created.

Admittedly, there may other factors. Science has argued that genetics can predispose someone toward criminal thought and behavior. Behavioral psychologists assert that even in many loving environments a person can become so focused on an idea like revenge or take pleasure in destroying things that they block out saner voices or reason and care.

Those exceptions aside, consider the power of community in creating a hero.
  • Edward Kimball was a growing Christian who wanted to be used by God. He wasn't a pastor or a missionary, but he felt broken to share Jesus Christ with people. He had a special burden for a young man named Dwight who worked in a Chicago shoe store. One day he mustered up the courage to go and tell Dwight about Jesus. Kimball was suprised and ecstatic when Dwight was broken by what he heard, and in turn gave his life to Christ.

  • Dwight, also known as D.L. Moody, later began a powerful preaching and evangelism ministry. One day a man named Frederick Meyer listened to him, and (although he was already a Christian) God used Moody's preaching to break Meyer's spirit to enter full-time ministry.

  • F.B. Meyer, known in many church history circles today as a great Baptist preacher, one day shared a message that a young man named Wilbur Chapman heard. Chapman was compelled to give his life to Jesus Christ, and later became further broken toward a calling to be an evangelist. One of the young men he took under his wing was a former professional baseball player who also loved Jesus and wanted to share Him with the world. His name was Billy Sunday.
  • Billy Sunday's ministry grew and one day he held a crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina. Many people came to faith and were so broken by the good news of Jesus that they wanted to have another crusade. Bilyl Sunday wasn't available, so an evangelist named Mordecai Hamm was invited to speak. While the "success" of the campaign wasn't considered as numerically impressive as the first one, a young, lanky farm boy walked down the aisle on one of the final nights. We know him as Billy Graham.

  • Billy Graham, arguably one of the greatest evangelists in many generations, has stated he's never saved a soul - rather, "Only God can save someone and bring them from spiritual darkness into light. All we can do is point them to Christ and then trust the Holy Spirit to bring them to faith." Although he's not without controversy or accusation, millions of people are walking with Jesus Christ today after being broken by the Lord because Billy Graham was broken by Him first.
There are some variations of this narrative, but the trend is the same. In this instance, Kimball reached Moody, who touched Meyer, who reached Chapman, who helped Sunday, who reached the businessmen in Charlotte who invited Hamm, who then touched Billy Graham.

Talk about a legacy of brokenness.

You may not be a Billy Graham, but you might be an Edward Kimball.

Or you might be a mega-evangelist in the making.

You may not be Batman, Spiderman or Superman... but you might be Alfred, Aunt May or Ma Kent.

Or you might be an emerging superhero.

 Some people will set the world on fire, others will hand them the match, and some will stand by with a bucket of water.

Clearly, you can choose which one you'll be...

or you can become broken in all the right ways and let Christ in you and others around you reassemble the pieces into something profound.
Submit yourselves, then, to God.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

- James 4:7-10

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