by Josh Müller
Of the dozens of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, my personal favorite has to be Black Panther.
There is so much I love about it: I love that it was a movie that many people didn’t expect much of, and yet it became one of the top grossing movies of all time; I love the themes of healing and redeeming generational injustices; and I love the message that we need to chose to do the right thing, even when our traditions and cultures might sway us otherwise.
As we’re getting near the release of the Blank Panther sequel, I found myself revisiting the movie, and thinking about some lessons I took away from our first cinematic visit to Wakanda.
After all, as a friend once pointed out to me:
Black Panther is a movie that tells the story of a Kingdom hidden in plain sight, gifted with an unimaginable and effectively limitless source of power, which enabled them to build a thriving nation, to heal fatal wounds, and to have wisdom and insight for world‑changing innovations that brought about well-being beyond what rest of the world had even imagined. This Kingdom is ruled by a Warrior King, who dies but comes back to life to save his people. The main message of the movie is that this Kingdom has remained too hidden from the rest of the world for millennia, but now is its time to come out of hiding, and use the Gift they’ve been given to help make the world a better place.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like that story has a LOT of parallels with Church.
So, I think maybe there are a few lessons in here for you and me as followers of Jesus.
Here are a few specific ones that I notice.
1. What you carry is more powerful than you know
The first lesson and reminder that I came away with from watching Black Panther is the fact that, as a follower of Jesus, what you’ve been given is deeper and more powerful than you or anyone else has any idea of.
In the movie, Klaue tells agent Ross that the Wakandans have a mountain full of Vibranium that “they’ve been mining for thousands of years, and they still haven’t scratched the surface!”
Wakanda’s Vibranium – their source of power, technology, innovation, etc. – was a massive mountain, deeper and more plentiful with world‑changing treasure than anyone else in the world had any idea of. That nearly limitless source of Vibranium was how they were able to create technologies centuries beyond what the rest of the world had. It’s how they were able to heal fatal wounds. It’s how they were able to create a just and stable society while the rest of the world around them was subject to injustice and instability.
That idea of having a Gift of significant power meant to help make the world a better place sounds familiar:
If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard that verse enough that it’s lost some of its potency. So, I invite you to take a minute to chew on its implications.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you carry the Spirit and Presence of the One Whose very word ignited the nuclear fusion of a trillion-trillion stars, bringing innumerable, unimaginably-large galaxies into a cosmic orbital dance spreading out on an infinite stage, further than our best technology can see in any direction.
For 13,500,000,000 light-years (🤯🤯🤯🤯) in every direction from us, there is so much beauty, wonder, and awe that we could spend a thousand lifetimes exploring it and not even begin to scratch the surface!
Scripture teaches us that God created all of that with His Word.
What’s even more insane to me is that Scripture also teaches that the same One who created all that with His Word lives in you and me, and He uses that same voice to speak to us, so that we would hear Him and follow Him.
The God of the Bible is so much insanely more powerful than our minds could comprehend that, no matter how great we imagine Him, we will always, definitionally, be underestimating Him.
And Scripture teaches that He wants to set up camp inside you and me.
The God who ignited the galaxies with a sentence wants to lives in us.
Much like the Wakandans, you haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the transformational power living inside of you.
2. We need to stop hiding the Gift we’ve been given
I’m not the most well-versed in literary techniques and symbolism, but sometimes an artistic device is just so clear that it’s hard to ignore.
I feel like that’s the case with the last lines of the opening scene of the movie Black Panther:
Child: And we still hide, Baba?
For me, a major part of the message of the movie seems to be summed up in those few lines.
The kingdom of Wakanda was given a stunning power and blessing, capable of making the impossible possible.
In the story, this kingdom has been holding that power to themselves for thousands of years.
There are myriad of reasons that emerge throughout the movie: tradition, fear, and greed to name a few.
But, as the story progresses, we see T’Challa grapple with that same question posed in the opening lines of the movie: “Why?”
Surely we can be doing more.
Surely we could and should take this Gift we’ve been given to make the world a better place.
Surely the reasonable thing is to stop keeping what we’ve been given secret, and to help those suffering out of their pain; especially when we have such powerful resources at our disposal to make it happen.
T’Challa’s struggle over this question culminates in my favorite line in the entire MCU:
“All of you were wrong to turn your backs on the rest of the world. We let the fear of our discovery keep us from doing what was right! No more! I can not stay here with you… I must right these wrongs.”
The choices of the past might have made sense in order to get us to where we are now. But the season is changing. Some of the ways we used to do things don’t make sense anymore.
Where that’s true, it’s worth asking why would we keep doing them the way we used to?
Why would we let fear of change, or fear of anything, keep us from doing what’s right?
… or keep us from doing what we’re created for?
Like we talked about above, if you’re a follower of Jesus and you’ve been filled with His Spirit, Scripture teaches us that you’ve been filled with His power. It really seems from my years of following Jesus and studying scripture that a big part of what we’re meant to do with this Power is to partner with God in seeing the transformational work of His Kingdom move “on earth as it is in heaven” — to see injustices made right; to see people, families, communities, and creation healed and restored, and brought back into right relationship with God; to comfort the mourning; to free the oppressed; to bring life to dead places.
That’s the Power sitting inside of you.
That’s what we’ve been hiding inside of us.
The Power to partner in God’s work of seeing earth transformed to look like heaven.
That’s not something to be kept to ourselves. It’s not meant to be stuck inside us or our church buildings. It’s meant to flow out of us, and to be a power that will transform the world.
I also find myself loving the last scene in Black Panther. In it, T’Challa promises the United Nations that Wakanda will stop hiding and hoarding the blessing that they had been keeping secret for thousands of years, and instead would help “find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”
Do you remember the response of the United Nations representative?
“With all due respect… what can a nation of farmers have to offer the rest of the world?”
In response, T’Challa and his crew simply grin.
I can’t help but think that there is some major sense in which you and I can (and should) be walking in that same grin of confidence in our day-to-day lives.
We don’t play by the same rules that this world does.
We are ambassadors from a Kingdom of Abundance, bearing witness in a Universe of Scarcity.
Remember, the God who created the Universe lives inside of you.
That’s not something that’s meant to be left inside. It’s meant to be a blessing to the world around you.
Don’t be afraid to show that Light.
Be unreasonably generous, compassionate, and loving.
That’s the Kingdom we’re from, and the lifestyle we’re meant to walk in.
So, let it shine! Don’t hide it from the world.
3. The Gospel is more than a Frisbee
Wait….. wut? 🤔
Yeah, I know. Hang in there, this will make sense in a second!
When I first started thinking about vibranium and the Kingdom of God, a quote from an earlier MCU movie came to mind.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, there’s a moment when Ultron is working to make his new vibranium “body” which later becomes Vision, and he drops a potent line:
“[Vibranium is the] most versatile substance on the planet, and they used it to make a frisbee. Typical… they scratch the surface, and never think to look within.”
The “frisbee” he’s refering to is of course Captain America’s iconic shield — a chunk of vibranium molded into a circular form that Steve Rogers threw at enemies and would hide behind to avoid gunfire.
It’s so fascinating for me to think about vibranium as a metaphor for the Kingdom of God in this context.
How often do we as Christians approach the Bible with the main goal of trying to find verses which we can use effectively in an argument?
There are a lot of apologetics and evangelism training programs around that teach you how to “debate” well about faith — how to basically “argue someone into heaven”. You learn how to use scripture as a “shield” against people’s arguments. You learn how to throw Bible verses in conversations to “beat” others’ ideas.
It’s the most powerful thing in the universe,
and we’ve made a frisbee out of it.
“Open up my heart and let me comprehend,
Lest I be to blame of using this Book as a weapon for my own gain.”
And of course, none of this is to say that Scripture doesn’t have a defensive or offensive effect — the Psalms talk about God's name being our “strong fortress” protecting us, and Paul describes the Word of God as the “sword of the Spirit.”
But what I am saying is that the Gospel we’ve been entrusted with and the Kingdom we’re a part of isn’t meant for us to hit over others’ heads.
It’s not “a weapon for our own gain”.
What we’ve been given in Jesus, as God said to Abraham, is meant to be “a blessing for all nations.”
I’ve found it extremely rare that arguing with someone who believes differently than me in order to get them to start “believing the right thing” about God turns out to be effective. My attempts to “defend God,” more or less always fall on their face.
Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense.
That would be like trying to defend a Lion locked in a cage. That would be silly.
The best way to defend a Lion in a cage isn’t to try to mount an effective defence in the name of the Lion.
The best way is to let the Lion out of the cage.
Similarly, the best way I’ve found to see people encounter Jesus isn’t to argue with them. It’s not to use the Word of God — the most powerful and versatile thing in the universe — as a weapon or a frisbee. Instead, the most effective thing I’ve found is to simply introduce them to Him. To share how He’s transformed my life, and invite Him to do the same in their lives. To ask Holy Spirit to touch their hearts, to move in their lives and the lives of their families.
And then, to see what He wants to do.
Don’t try to defend the Lion.
Just let Him out of the cage.
Let’s act on it!
What are some ways you’ve been underestimating what God wants to do in your life and the lives of those around you?
Are there any ways you’ve been hiding what God has given you instead of using it to bless those around you?
Are there any ways you’ve been using the Gospel as a “weapon for your gain”, to win arguments or benefit yourself, instead of bringing it as truly Good News to bring life, hope, and reality-transforming truth for the people in your life?
Whenever I have an encounter with God’s Word, I try to commit to at least one thing I can do to obey or to apply that Truth to my life. I also try to think of at least one person I can share the Truth I’ve learned with.
With that in mind, is there anything you can apply to your life from what we talked about above?
Is there anyone you can share with this week who you think would be encouraged by what we've been talking about?
I’d love to hear what you come up with!
Share in the comments below!
Josh Müller is the brother of Emmaus Apparel creator Stephen Müller. He is a technologist, writer, disciple of Jesus, and all around super-nerd. Josh writes regularly on his website JoshMuller.ca, where you can read and follow his other content.