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  • Writer's pictureFaith & Fandom

Kingdom Come: Forgive Yourself (Guest Chapter by Radio Matt of Love Thy Nerd)

“Do you really think he’s mad at them? He’s raging at himself!”

In the future, the superheroes we once knew had largely disappeared from our vision. The Flash lives between the ticks of a second, patrolling his city at full speed, visible only as a red blur. Green Lantern waits in an Emerald space station for extraterrestrial threats that no longer come. Batman remains in his cave, patrolling Gotham via robotic avatars. The heroes we once knew as the Justice League each remained in varying versions of self-imposed exile, ever since Superman quit.

The world was changing. New heroes were emerging. Ones who didn’t share Superman’s code. Ones not afraid to kill villains. Society was turning their back on “the world’s oldest Boy Scout.” Instead, Metropolis found a new hero in Magog.

The Joker had given up pursuing Batman and made himself Superman’s nemesis. In his last scheme, he took the lives of 92 men… and one woman. One particularly important woman to Clark Kent. And still, the Joker was handed to the authorities. But Magog would take no chances. While the Joker was being moved, handcuffed and unable to put up a defense, Magog murdered him.

When he was put on trial, Superman angrily made his case against Magog and his ruthless methods of dealing with criminals. But in the end, Magog was acquitted, the jury decided justice had been done.

This officially turned the tide with the people. Magog was their new champion, the new protector. Magog then challenged Superman to a fight to make it official. Magog had won by default, because Superman flew away and wasn’t seen again for a decade.

With Superman gone, and the rest of the Golden Age heroes following suit, a new wave of vicious superheroes arose, guided not by morality, but by power. As more and more villains were murdered, this new breed of heroes became so bored that they began to fight themselves, using the cities around them as their arenas.

This story uses Biblical imagery of the End Times to drive the narrative. Jesus did the same when he warned his followers in Matthew 24:9-13: “...many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

With lawlessness more potent than ever, the people now lived in fear, not of supervillains, but of their own protectors. Ten years after Superman disappeared, Magog led his Justice Battalion to fight the villain Parasite. Parasite seemed afraid, but Magog was not a man of mercy. In fear for his life, Parasite struck Captain Atom, ripping him open and setting off a nuclear explosion that killed over a million innocent people in the very state where Clark Kent was raised.

This is the plot of a DC Comics “Elseworlds” series called Kingdom Come. It is perhaps my favorite comic story of all time, and it’s one of the first I ever read in full. What really stood out to me in this story was that the main character wasn’t Superman. In fact, it wasn’t any superhero. The protagonist of Kingdom Come was a disillusioned pastor named Norman McCay.

Norman pastored a dying church, visited dying friends, and watched as his world was dying too. In fact, Armageddon appeared to be on the horizon. Spectre - the wandering spirit of God’s vengeance - appeared to Norman and showed him what was happening to the world, telling him he was to bear witness to what was to come. And so, we follow the story through Norman’s eyes as Superman returns in the wake of the tragedy in Kansas.

In trying to fix his past mistakes, Superman and most of the Justice League return to quell the uproar of the rowdy new antiheroes. But in the end, it leads to a battle of superpowers big enough to destroy the world. The United Nations, fearing for their lives, made the call to drop a nuclear bomb on the battleground of the heroes to rid the world of as many as they could. Around Superman, many died. Thinking he was the only hero left, he flew to the U.N. and began to tear it down.

That is when Pastor Norman McCay stepped out of his hidden plane to speak truth to Superman. With the ceiling beams of the building clutched in his hands, eyes glowing red, Superman hears a still, small voice.“Clark? Clark, don’t do it. You blame yourself for Captain Marvel… for Magog and Kansas… for ten years that ended today. Yes, you’re angry. But in that anger, you’re forgetting once more what humans feel. What they fear. They won’t forgive you for this, Clark… Forgive yourself.”

In Kingdom Come, Superman, among others, grapples with the weight of his past actions and the consequences those actions have on the world around him. This mirrors our own struggles with past mistakes and the often difficult journey towards self-forgiveness. Harboring guilt and regret can hinder our personal growth and the ability to make positive changes. It can even hinder us from growing in our faith, as we feel undeserving or unworthy.

If we are being honest, we all have not only fallen short, but all of us have made selfish decisions that have hurt other people. While some may be worse than others in scope, it doesn’t change the fact that all of us are capable of letting our self-righteousness, our anger, our indignity, or our selfish behavior lead us astray. Likely several times over.

And when we finally get to a place where we want to atone for our sins, we fear that nothing will be enough. Guilt and shame build themselves up in our minds and become an incredible burden to bear. We convince ourselves that not even God is big enough to forgive us.

But that is not true. It is never true.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” -Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

God is speaking to his chosen people in the Old Testament, in the middle of punishing them. The people of Israel time and again heard the actual voice of God, saw mighty miracles plain as day, and were saved and delivered from their enemies. And time and again, they abandoned Him. Time and again, they turned away. Over and over, they sinned.

And God, over and over, offered them forgiveness. He did it so often that he finally brought the ultimate solution - His Son, Jesus Christ - who died for the forgiveness of ALL sin. Even yours.

When you hear the name “King David”, you likely think of one of three things: He slayed Goliath, he wrote the Psalms, or the phrase “A man after God’s own heart.” Few people think of the King who knowingly seduced a married woman, impregnated her, and had her husband killed to cover it up. When God punished him, we see David’s breakdown in Psalm 51. In verses 1 through 4, David cries out to God, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”

David realized that he had strayed far from the God who had protected him and set him as King. God did not remove the consequences of David’s actions, but He did forgive David. David would go on to be a great King. In fact, so many of the biggest heroes of the Bible had done terrible things in their past. God forgave them, and used them for great things.

If God Himself will forgive you… why would you hold back forgiveness from yourself?

The journey to overcome shame and guilt isn't solely reliant on our ability to forgive ourselves. Instead, it's through the transformative power of the cross that we find true liberation from our burdens.

It's natural and important to feel remorseful for our wrongdoings. Such feelings of guilt and sorrow are integral to our human experience. They should not be a destination, however, but a pathway leading to repentance. Once we embrace forgiveness, these feelings should be entrusted to the Lord. This type of sorrow, rooted in shame, is meant to guide us toward a deep conviction, prompting us to turn to God rather than away from Him.

Embracing self-compassion is crucial, especially as we navigate through our mistakes in a world that is far from perfect. Acknowledging that we are prone to error is a step towards understanding and patience with ourselves.

In our journey of healing, it's vital to practice compassion, patience, kindness, and gentleness. These virtues should be reflected in the way we treat ourselves, especially in moments of error or when facing the consequences of our choices.

Speaking to ourselves with kindness, being patient during our learning process, and embracing our imperfections are essential practices. It's about allowing ourselves the grace to grow, even when we stumble or take a wrong turn.

We can be gentle with our pain instead of shoving our pain away somewhere and hiding from the world.

Forgiving ourselves is giving ourselves permission to try again. It opens us up to be used by God to do amazing things. It opens up the possibility of using our past sins to inspire us to do good. Our past failures can be used by God to help others who fail in the same way.At the end of Kingdom Come, at the urging of Pastor Norman McCay, Superman finally forgave himself. “...I no longer care about the mistakes of the past. I care about coping with tomorrow, together.” This decision, after ten years of guilt and shame came to a head, inspired the heroes of every generation to come together in peace. Even many of the new generation of heroes made the decision to earn that title and turn from their unhinged ways. One man forgiving himself spread in a ripple effect that brought positive change for the whole world.Likewise, the Bible is full of failures and sinners who God still chose to shape our world and do mighty things in His name.

Imagine what God could do with you and your story, if only you’d let him.

That starts by accepting God’s forgiveness as the final word on the matter and laying your shame and guilt at His feet.



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