I just love the Avenger movies! But even more than the action and adventure of the movies, I love the concept of the Avenger structure!
Among the heroes of the Avengers, each possesses as very specific skill set. Not all can fly, but Iron Man can. Not all have a magic hammer, but Thor does. Not all can discern heart and motive of their enemy, but Natasha can. Only Captain America is a military strategist whose skills come in handy when deploying the heroes.
The reason I love them so much is that when I see the Avengers, I see the body of Christ! The Avengers mimic the analogy that God gives us for the body of Christ – the human body. In 1st Corinthians 12, Paul uses body parts and their specialized gifts to explain how the church is to work. He uses the functions of the foot, hand, ear and eye to explain that they don’t all do the same thing, but yet all are specifically designed to do one thing – making each one important.
The foot, hand, ear and eyes all have very specialized skill sets. The eye just sees – that’s it. No other job at all! A single-use organ! The same with the foot and hand – although similar in form, they are uniquely created to do their very specific jobs. The ear is fashioned to excel at hearing and to do no other thing. They are all just like the Avengers!
Our upbringing in the American school system has taught us to lessen the importance of specialized skill. In school, we are expected to be good at ALL of the subjects. We actually get in trouble if we excel in one area over the others. To be “well-rounded” is the goal of the school student. Not only that, but when an area of weakness is discovered in a student, his entire educational focus switches to that area, to the exclusion of any other area of learning. Focusing on weakness is modeled for us, and we assume that that’s how life is supposed to work.
Because we were brought up in it the “well-rounded” thinking has translated into our understanding of our place in the body of Christ. We wrongly focus on our weakness to strengthen that area, because well-roundedness is still our misplaced goal. The by-product of focusing on weakness is to undervalue our areas of specialty.
That’s not the way the Avengers work! They celebrate their special gifts! Iron Man doesn’t waste time strengthening is inability to throw a really big hammer because Thor can do that. Iron Man only concentrates on flying and inventing things – his area of specialty. When there’s a need for strategy, they all stop and look to Captain America because they recognize his area of specialty. They don’t bemoan that fact that they aren’t strategists because they don’t need to be – they have Captain America! And they know that they don’t need to possess the skills of Dr. Banner because “we have a Hulk!”
I believe that’s the way God wants the Body of Christ to function. He wants us to focus on our own area of expertise! We are to celebrate our abilities and focus all of our attention on strengthening our strengths! Once we do that, we look around the Body to see who possesses skills that I don’t? If I’m the Hulk, where are my Captain America and my Thor? With whom does God want me to partner to become a fitly joined body of Christ, able to fulfill God’s mission for us? Because like the Avengers, only together can we defeat the foe that no one of us could defeat alone.