Who’s Your Hero? What Ephesians 1 Reveals about the Story You’re In
I cried when Iron Man died. And you probably did too. (It's okay, we're in it together.)
Undoubtedly, we are drawn to hero stories. We appreciate a person who has the capacity to save the whole world even under the worst conditions. We value the fact that our hero triumphs even in the face of uncertainty (cue Dr. Strange's hand signal to Iron Man, "one").
Why do we value these stories so much? Maybe they inspire us to be the heroes in our own stories? If so, the hero we revere on the screen is nothing more than a portrayal of what we could be if we just tried a little bit more. Marvel movies are so popular because they function as a mirror, reflecting back to us what we, as a society, value most.
As an unabashed lover of those movies (what even is DC anyway?), I can testify that they mirror back to us our admiration and desire for love, justice, peace, and other things we hold dear. This is good but, it can be problematic.
Why? Because as Christians, we are committed to the truth that sin affects all human endeavors. This means that the movies we watch also reflect the sin in our lives, specifically, our desire to be the all-sufficient, all-powerful hero in our own stories.
The Bible is described as a mirror, too (James 1:23-25). But there is more than one way to look at a mirror. One can look through the mirror, in which case you will see a reflection of yourself. But one can also look at the mirror, noticing the silver of the glass, the frame around it, and more.
Paul's letter to the Ephesians explains the difference. Because the Bible exists in the same universe as Marvel movies (or is it a multiverse?), we may be tempted to think of the gospel in self-centered ways – looking through it toward its benefits for us and making that the essence of the gospel, with ourselves in center stage. Ephesians 1, however, invites us to look at the gospel.
The gospel is the proclamation of the arrival of Jesus as God's anointed king. During his life, he lived in perfect obedience to God, died on the cross as a substitution for sin, and was buried. On the third day, God raised him from the dead and enthroned him at his right hand, after which he sent the Spirit.
The good news of the gospel, then, is that King Jesus is enthroned and that God's kingdom has erupted into our reality, working to change all things for the better.
You see, Paul understood that we are not the heroes of the Biblical story. God is. In Ephesians 1, he explains that the gospel centers around God's actions, not ours. God has won. He has triumphed over all opposition and has reconciled all things to himself through his chosen agent, Jesus.
And benefits we receive are the results of those actions.
We can see the Trinity at work in Ephesians 1:3-14. Verses 3 through 6 highlight the action of God the Father (he blessed us, he chose us, he predestined us), along with our benefits (we are holy and blameless before him).
Verses 7 through 12 highlight the action of God the Son. He lavishes his grace upon us, he makes known to us the mystery of his will, he brings unity. And they reveal our benefits: we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, we are chosen in him.
Verses 13 and 14 highlight the action of God the Spirit (he guarantees our inheritance), as well as our benefit (we are sealed with him).
If we are not the heroes of the gospel story, then what is its goal? What is the purpose of God's kingdom changing all things?
The answer lies in a repeated motif that closes each trinitarian section: "to the praise of his glorious grace" (v. 6), "to the praise of his glory" (v. 12), and "to the praise of his glory" (v. 14).
To be a Christian, then, means that we surrender our desire to be the hero in the story of our lives. Rather, we understand ourselves as supporting actors in God's story and join him in the efforts of his kingdom. Only then will we be able to mirror God's love, justice, and peace to others as we strive to live to the praise of his glory.
As you think about making God the hero of the story, what changes do you need to make in your life? Read about how adding rules to your life can actually help you grow and flourish.