I’ve been listening to David by Chuck Swindoll. The first chapter is about what God looks for in David, which is character – being the same person in private as in public: reliable, honest, wholesome. David is responsible because tending sheep has made him so; he handled the little things in life with integrity, which makes him capable of handling the big things later in his life. His faith is genuine because it goes beneath the surface. Satan, or as my pastor calls him, “Old Smutty Face,” doesn’t want our faith to be anything other than superficial – faith on the surface alone helps no one, implements no inner change, and doesn’t connect us to God.
So, what does any of this have to do with Captain America? He’s a man of character. He’s the same Steve at home, as he is at work. He’s consistent. He’s loyal to a value system and cause, rather than to an establishment. He doesn’t compromise, and when he sees that the system he is working for has become corrupt and lacks character, he has the strength to admit it, fight against it, and defeat it – because as a man of integrity, he believes in standing up for what he actually believes in, in this case, freedom.
Steve won’t change for anyone, including Natasha. He resists all her attempts to influence him even in smaller things, he doesn’t approve of her “secondary missions” or tendency to look after herself, and he keeps her in line when they do work together. Steve is incorruptible, because he is utterly confident in who he is, what he believes, and in his true purpose. He has character. Like David, he proved himself faithful in the little things, so others knew he could be trusted with “big” things. David had to defeat lions before he could kill Goliath; he had to gain life experience from living in reality. Steve’s reality was dealing with bullies and doing what he believed was right even when it earned him mockery and condemnation. He was the scrawniest kid in the lineup but he still threw himself on a grenade to save the others. He fought hard to be accepted and now everyone accepts him – but he isn’t corrupted through his newfound strength, because he formed integrity (or character) as a weakling first.
Natasha is a different story from Steve, but also symbolic of a life under transformation. She’s walked away from parts of her old life (her former alliances), but not all of it; she still plays fast and loose with rules and morality. She’s like the superficial believer who isn’t quite ready to let God peek into the darker parts of their life and take away their old ways. Worse, she enjoys trying to corrupt Steve whenever she can (when teasing him about stealing a car, he retorts that it’s not stealing, it’s borrowing, and he intends to return it in just as good of condition as he found it). But Steve is having an impact on her. She can’t change his values, which earns him her respect, and his integrity starts rubbing off on her, to the point where she decides the bigger goal is worth sacrificing her own identity. She spills her secrets right along with all the other secrets, because it’s the right thing to do. And that, for her, is a milestone. That’s the point where she admits who she truly was, and starts to become the woman she’s meant to be. Admission is key to change – you must know who you were, and fess up to it, before you can truly change.
God wants us to have character. He wants us to be like Steve – firm in our convictions and incorruptible by external forces. He wants us focused more on Him than the influences of the world, to hold to our values even when it earns us scorn. He wants us to have integrity. Many of us try to hide our past, or our sins, because we’re ashamed of them, but the first step toward character is admitting our faults. The past is only important if we learn from it – like David, and Steve. We should use life experiences to gain wisdom and learn from mistakes, but we only have this moment – the past is gone, and we may not have a future, so what matters most is right now and whether or not we’re showing character through our actions.
True character is built up over a lifetime, but if we start out with a strong foundation of integrity, it’s an easier process. Steve has had a long, hard path to reach this point in his life, and he has further trials and tests to go, but as a man of character, his integrity will see him through.