Marvel’s Question: What makes a hero?

What is a hero? Captain America: Civil War wants to know.

The latest superhero film in the Avengers series has everyone—including the heroes themselves—asking this question. All the Avengers want to do is help people, but in Civil War, they find themselves at odds with the public—and ultimately each other—over this burning question. Unfortunately, they can’t agree on what’s right.

Half of the Avengers believe it’s important for heroes to submit to the desires and decisions of the people they’re committed to protecting. When an opportunity arises to do just that, they’re happy to comply. Iron Man points out: “If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys.”

The other Avengers aren’t so sure. They believe that heroes need the freedom to do what they believe is right no matter what others think. Captain America feels validated in this view by this advice from a friend: “Where you can’t [compromise], don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, YOU move.'”

Beliefs matter. What the Avengers believe about their roles as heroes affects how they act, and the resulting struggle has serious consequences throughout the movie. Think about your own beliefs about heroes. Who calls the shots? What do heroes do? Who can be a hero? As Christians, we can get answers to these questions. The Bible might not talk about using fancy tech or altered bodies to fight evil, but it does paint a clear picture of what a real hero does and whom they follow.

Who calls a real hero’s shots?

So you want to be a hero. Can you rely on your own sense of what’s right and wrong? Not according to Proverbs. According to biblical wisdom, following your own path can prove deadly.

Consider these observations:

  • Proverbs 3:5, 7—“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding… Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”

  • Proverbs 16:25—“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

  • Proverbs 21:2—“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

If you can’t trust your own way, should you listen to the advice of the majority instead? Not so fast—not if they’re not following what God declares good and just.

Consider this warning and blessing:

  • Colossians 2:8—“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

  • Psalm 1:1-2—“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”

In the end, God is the one who calls the shots. Without Him, the world’s way or your way may seem right, but they will lead to disaster in the end. Follow God’s way—He sees things you don’t see, and His judgment is perfect.

What does a real hero do?

Ephesians 6:12—“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

A real hero correctly identifies the fight at hand and makes use of the very best defenses and weapons. We know from Ephesians 6:10–18 that the fight isn’t physical, but it is serious. Luckily, God supernaturally equips us for the fight. In Ephesians 6, we find that we have the “belt of truth” (14), the “breastplate of righteousness” (14), and the “gospel of peace” as shoes (15). Faith is our shield (16), and salvation is our helmet (17). We have a way to fight back, too—the Word of God, which is described as “the sword of the Spirit” (17).

God has already given us all of these things—we just need to be willing to take up the tools He has provided and do the work of a hero. Is the armor of God as flashy as Iron Man’s suit or Captain America’s shield? Maybe not to the naked eye, but it gets the job done!

Heroes have one thing in common: faith.

Hebrews 12:3-4—“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 11 gives a list of great heroes ranging from Abel to the early martyrs. These individuals are all lauded for a single reason: their faith. Chapter 12 goes on to tell us that these great heroes stand in witness to the same fight we fight now. That means we should press on, keeping our eyes on Jesus—the object of a hero’s faith.

Because of Jesus’s work on the cross, the faith of the early heroes was not in vain. Because of His victory over death, we can have faith that we will also find victory in the fight against evil. Faith in Him is the common trait in the lives of all who stand against evil.

Choose your heroes wisely—and be one too.

Which heroes are the real heroes? If you’ve seen or are planning to see Captain America: Civil War, you’ll have to make your own call on the Avengers’ choices. When it comes to real-life heroes, though, the Bible clearly lays out what a true hero is and does. Nothing is stopping you from being one too. They may never make a movie about your fight, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Let God call the shots, take up His armor and weapons against evil, and join the heroes of old in faith in Jesus Christ, the greatest Hero of all time.

About the author

Elizabeth Buege graduated from the University of Northwestern—St. Paul with a B.A. in English Writing. She works as a freelance book editor, offering writing and editing tips alongside her services at She also teaches weekly writing classes as the secondary writing tutor for the ESCHEL homeschool co-op in Oakdale, MN.

When Elizabeth isn’t working, you can probably find her reading or writing for fun. She also loves gardening, cooking, exploring parks, and hanging out with big dogs and small children. She attends First Free in Maplewood and is thankful to have found such strong fellowship so close to home.

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