My grandson asked this question the other day. Having been a teacher for lots of years, my instant answer was “having eyes in the back of my head and knowing what kids are doing in the classroom behind me”.
He was completely unimpressed by that and said “no, really, what is your super power?”
So I also added powers such as being able to tell the future (if you don’t do your homework, you won’t get an A), reading minds (don’t even think about doing that), The Voice (you don’t dare disobey) and a bladder that can hold on for hours. Thus ensued a lively discussion about super powers and their ultimate purpose.
The fantasy world of superheroes is quite different. There’s a huge range of super powers, some of which actually seem desirable and others which are definitely occult.
Origin of super powers
Originally the term was created to relate to geographic and political forces, such as Russia and America during the Cold War. The main issue was control: either of a territory or a people you consider your own, or to prevent anyone else taking your territory or people. They were ‘super’ simply because they were the biggest in the world.
The concept exploded in the world of fantasy through the super heroes of DC Comics and Marvel Comics and later the Anime phenomenon from Japan.
Purpose of super powers
Characters like Robin Hood, robbing the rich to give to the poor, have been around for centuries.
Generally, there is an altruistic motivation behind the super heroes – fighting evil or crime for the well-being of others is the prime motive. Thus one would expect their super powers to be used for the good of others, whether they ask for it or not.
But who has the right to decide what is for someone’s good? There’s a huge element of presumption and manipulation behind that. And is it valid to use your super power for the death and destruction of someone else, even if they happen to be a super villain (who, by definition, can’t be killed anyway)?
Types of super powers
Some of the early super heroes had powers that were simply enhanced natural abilities, such as X-ray vision, strength, dexterity or flight. They also had to wear costumes, complete with masks, so that their true identity is not revealed and they can be normal in life until their super powers are needed.
Sometimes these concepts morphed into supernatural or occult abilities, clairvoyance and manipulation being the most prominent. Wolverine’s claws, or the nets that issue from Spiderman’s hands, may fall into these categories, as do skills like teleportation, invisibility, weather manipulation or supernatural healing.
These things all presume that we as humans are not enough to win in the fight against evil – we need a fighting edge that will ensure victory.
The super powers of a Christian
Where does a Christian fit into this realm of super stuff, apart from watching the movies and having fun with the sheer escapism of the imagination?
The Bible does recount stories of super human feats, eg Samson and Philip. God himself has been involved in stepping beyond His created order of things by, eg, making the sun stand still and knocking the walls of Jericho down through the sound of the trumpets.
That sort of leaves us as Christians with nothing on our side.
Yet as I read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, I’m reminded that we indeed have access to true supernatural power! Only it’s not in the form of spectacular displays of zapping and we don’t need to hide behind a costume to manifest it.
It should, in fact, be part of the way we naturally do life.
There are spiritual gifts that Paul takes for granted that his readers have and engage in for the good of everyone: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, discernment of spirits, tongues and their interpretation (see 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verses 7 to 11).
The only thing is, they are not subject to our wants and desires – it is completely up to God and they really depend upon our personal relationship with Him.
But the greatest force is love. Love is a force that is stronger than gravity, more compelling than magnetism.
Love is the only force that can permanently change a person. It is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, it is not rude or self-seeking or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. (1 Corinthians chapter 13)
Not fear, or coercion, or bribery, though these may have some effect on a person’s life and motivation, maybe with a pinch of willpower thrown in.
Trouble is, we as Christians often don’t do love very well. We confuse it with lust and the whole sexual complexity within relationships – perhaps now more so than at any other time in history. Or we try to control someone because we “love” them.
Maybe the term “spectrum” is appropriate here. We seem to use that term for all sorts of conditions – why not love? Some people are only waking up to what love really is because they may be coming out of abuse or neglect and need to learn. Others seem to personify love and they are the sort of people that you want to be with all the time.
I am learning to love – what’s your super power?
Aira Chilcott B.Sc (Hons), M. Contemp Sci, Cert IV in Christian Ministry and Theology, Cert IV in Training and Evaluation, Grad Dip Ed., began her working life at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, investigating characteristics of cancer cells. Turning to teaching in the Christian school system provided opportunities to learn theology, more science, mission trips and explore the outdoors through bushwalking and other exploits. Now retired, Aira is a panelist for Young Writers and volunteers at a nature park. Aira is married to Bill and they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html