“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (I Timothy 4:8).”
I remember the phrase from my early childhood well. In the introduction to the George Reeves incarnation of Superman, the superhero was said to be fighting “a never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.”
According to Erik Lundegaard of the New York Times, this seemingly set in stone phrase is not the original. It developed over time.
Lundegaard says the Superman character first appeared in cartoon form in the early 1940s. In this version of the series, being involved in “the never ending battle for truth and justice” was enough for the Man of Steel.
The “American Way”portion of the phrase was added on the the radio version of the story while America and its allies were on the short end of the stick in World War II. When things got better during the war, “the American Way” was replaced with “tolerance”. After all, we had learned from horrors like the Holocaust what the effect of intolerance could be, says Lundegaard.
In the 1960s, the values of Superman underwent another slight change. In the cartoon, he stood for “truth, justice and freedom.” Finally, in the most recent movie, “Superman Returns”, the Man of Steel is back where he started. According to Lundegaard, Superman again represents only “truth and justice.”
I am reminded by all of this of an attempt in a previous workplace to set core values for our department. It was part of a two-year strategic planning initiative. The result was the following set of values:
Some of us working there used to joke that there was also an unwritten value: flexibility. In practice, we had to bend and adjust to the needs, wishes and desires of those we served.
The values of a fictional superhero and a real workplace may contain changes, omissions and additions. However, God and His values do not change.
The believer’s superhero has eternal qualities. They last forever. For example, the Psalmist says this about Jesus the Messiah:” In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds” (Psalm 45:4).
God emphasizes His values of truth, humilty and righteousness throughout the Scriptures. They are exemplified in the lives of His people and spelled out in biblical teachings.
For example, Joseph was called upon to interpret a dream to Pharoah. When Pharoah told Joseph that he had heard he was able to do interpretations of dreams, Joseph told him,”I cannot do it. But God will give Pharoah the answer He desires (Genesis 41:16).” Joseph could have gained all kinds of brownie points by taking credit for his gift, but he gave credit where credit was due. He was humble.
Jesus prefaced a number of His teachings with “I tell you the truth”. For example, He used this statement to begin His teachings on love, faith and reaching out to the lost (Matthew 8:10; 10:42; 18:13). When Jesus said it, you could take it to the bank.
The Bible says that God’s righteousness endures forever (II Corinthians 9:9). In His role of Ruler of the universe, God’s righteousnness is exhibited by His justice (Psalm 9:8; 36:6; 45:6,7). God loves righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:5).
We tend to get the values of God wrong. We attribute our own values to Him to justify our whimsicalness.
However, we are wrong to thing God is like us (Psalm 50:21). In fact, He gets angry when we give the wrong view of Him to others (Job 42:7).
God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Our God has the same values He has always had.
If Jesus Christ is our King, then we ought to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1,2). We ought to develop some consistency in our lives. This includes maintaining constancy in what we consider valuable.
However, we are not supermen at present. We didn’t enter this world with inherent superpowers. We were born with the handicap of having a proclivity to sin. As a result, we have to work at consistent godliness.
If we do so, Jesus can introduce us to His Father as those involved in the never ending battle for truth, humility and righteousness. These values will do for starters as we get ready for eternity when we will truly be supermen.