Anyone who has known me for more than 5 minutes knows I’m a giant nerd. There is all sorts of evidence to support this – my giant Millennium Falcon, my Optimus Prime action figure. Some of the most damning evidence comes in form of my comic collection. I love comic books, everything from the Walking Dead to superhero comics. I make no apologies for it. As a product of the 80s and 90s, I grew up on a steady diet of Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman.
For me, there is much to love about comics and comic heroes in particular. Superheroes represent who we are as humans and who we strive to become. They are giant, operatic figures that tell the tale of humanity’s best and worst attributes. They bear titles like “the Man of Steel” and “the Dark Knight Detective.” They tell our stories on a larger scale.
If I could aspire to one hero’s epithet, I wouldn’t aspire to be the “Man of Tomorrow” or “the Man of Steel” like Superman. I wouldn’t even want to be called “the World’s Greatest Superhero,” as The Amazing Spider-Man’s cover boasts, in classic Stan Lee bravado. I would not want to be known as “the fastest man alive” or “the strongest one there is.” The character whose title I would want for my own would be Daredevil – the “Man Without Fear”!
Daredevil sprung from the fecund imagination of Stan Lee in 1964. At first blush, the character should have never had the history he does. His power set is meager and he possesses no offensive powers – no super strength or heat rays. He lost his sight at a young age and gained heightened smell, hearing, taste, and touch – all of the powers people forget Superman has. His heightened senses have some interesting side effects like a “radar” sense and increased balance, but what truly makes Daredevil special is the man behind the mask.
Matt Murdock’s father Jack raised him to be a man without fear. He raised him to be a man who will not back down from what is right and unafraid to take the consequences. In one issue, Daredevil stood alone against the Hulk, the strongest being on the planet. He does not win, but instead finds himself in the hospital. His courage is not limited to his life as Daredevil. Matt Murdock graduated top of his law school at Columbia. Instead of taking a high-paying job, he decides to become a public defender. This is a different kind of courage than the kind required to face down a giant rage monster. This is the fortitude to follow one’s convictions even when it is difficult. This quality makes Matt Murdock truly a man without fear.
It may surprise some people, but the most common command given in the Bible is not “don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go out with girls that do.” It isn’t “stay in school.” It isn’t even all of the things that God really does tell us to do like not taking God’s name in vain or not killing. The most common command given in the Bible is “do not be afraid.”
When Joshua had to lead God’s people into the land, he did so without Moses. The man who led them out of Egypt was no longer there. Joshua would have to take over. So God tells Joshua over and over again in that first chapter “be strong and courageous!” He encourages God with the news that he is with Joshua, even as God was with Moses.
This is the knowledge that lets us be men and women without fear. God is with us. God sent Jesus as the Emmanuel, God-with-Us, because he loves us so. Because we are so loved we cannot have fear. We do not have room in our hearts enough for fear and love. Perfect love casts out fear. God’s perfect love casts out fear because, since God loves us so fully, so madly, we do not need fear judgment from anyone. Isn’t that what we all want, to be fully loved, fully accepted? What’s more, the One who loves us holds all of life together. If God be for us, who could ever be against us? In Christ, God has conquered death itself and has invited us to die and be raised to new life with him. Armed with that knowledge, whatever shall we fear?