When I was younger I loved Superman. I idolized him. I had Superman toys and action figures. I had seen all the movies, repeatedly. I had Superman t-shirts and the pajamas that came complete with a cape. I wanted to be Superman. I even tried to make my hair curl in the front just like in the picture above. Even still today, Superman makes me nostalgic.
Over the holidays, I watched Superman Returns with my wife and there was one scene that surprisingly grabbed my attention.
Superman and Lois Lane were floating in the air above Metropolis. Prior to this scene, there had been some relational tension between the two and this was the only place where they could find some “alone time.” The tension revolved around the demand on Superman to rescue so many people and its effect on his ability to be with Lois.
The conversation was short and went like this.
Superman: What do you hear?
Superman: I hear everything. You said the world doesn’t need a savior. Every day I hear the world crying out for one.
I resonate with this scene because I feel as though I’m in a season of ministry where I “hear everything.” It seems like every time I turn around there is another individual, couple, or family who is in grave need of help. People are depressed, lonely, and dissatisfied with their lives. Marriages are on the rocks and falling apart. People are struggling with their sexual and gender identities. People are in financial crisis with too few resources to make ends meet. Parents are at their wit’s end with their kids. Children are resentful and rebellious toward their parents. People are working through the grief of a sudden death. The list goes on and on.
When faced with these situations, I find myself wishing I was Superman, that I could solve every problem and rescue every person.
But I’m not Superman. Not even close. I’m a pastor. And the reality is, even though I may hear everything, it’s not my job to rescue anyone. I don’t have the power. It’s Jesus’ job to rescue and save, not mine.
But this raises an important question. Even though I don’t have the ability to rescue people, do I still have some measure of responsibility? This is a relevant question, not only for pastors but for the entire church. Do we have a responsibility towards others when it comes to the burdens that they carry?
In Genesis 4:9 God confronts Cain about killing his brother Abel. God simply asks Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain responds saying, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Essentially saying, “How should I know?! I got my own problems to take care of. Let Abel worry about himself.”
Even though this is a sad attempt to skirt the responsibility of killing his brother, the attitude behind his response question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” may be our own attitude as well.
If we’re honest, we may not like the idea of being our “brother (or sister’s) keeper.” It requires wading into the mess of other peoples’ lives. Sometimes our own lives feel burdensome enough, let alone having to think about the burdens others carry.
But as I read Cain’s question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I found myself saying, “Yes. As a matter of fact; you are his keeper, that’s what it means to be a part of a family (biological or spiritual).”
I also believe that the New Testament church casts a strong vision that being part of the church means we have the responsibility to shoulder each other’s burdens.
To start, Galatians 6:2 reads, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” That’s pretty clear. I’m not sure you can get more explicit than that.
But also, Acts 2:42-47 & 4:32-35 describe a community of people leveraging all that they have for the sake of those in their community. People were opening up their homes and sharing all that they had. They were selling property and distributing their profits to those less fortunate. The text tells us that the care for each other was so great that there were “no needy persons among them.”
What a radical and beautiful picture. The most amazing thing about it is there is no mention of a Superman figure saving the day. It was simply ordinary people, doing ordinary things, helping out those in need.
So, if you’re ever tempted to take the role of a super-hero in someone’s life, don’t. Let Jesus be that person. Simply come alongside them and help them shoulder the load. That may be the exact thing that they need.