Reflections on Heroes

I used to be that kid.

It’s the kid at the concert who is obsessed with the band.  It’s the over zealous sports junky rattling off the statistics.  It’s the impassioned believer listening to three podcasts a day of his favorite preacher.  I loved my heroes.

Of all these things have something in common:  admiration of heroes.

However, if you are anything like me, this can get out of hand really quickly.  Our heroes become unrealistic, air-brushed, plastic, over venerated saints that will fail our unrealistic expectations.  What does this do to us as believers in Jesus?

  1. It demands too much of our heroes and refuses to recognize them as sinners.  Much of the time, we elevate our heroes to such high places that when they stumble, we are appalled and give them much more grief than they need.  We slander their names privately to our friends, “Did you hear about…?  Someone told me that he was a jerk in real life…”  Instead of dealing with our leaders in gentleness, we impose standards that we would label as unmerciful if imposed on us.  Our heroes are sinners, and sinners sin.  We would do well to keep this in mind.
  2. It demands too much of those who work in the same arena, but are not as popular or gifted.  Some people are just flat-out gifted and can communicate with ease at moments notice; some people are incredible hard workers and have to prepare for days for a 15 minutes sermon.  To scoff at the nervous preacher, the mediocre (but faithful) worship leader, or the not-so-theologically nuanced friend lacks grace, patience, and compassion.  To compare our friends and local leaders with these men can be detrimental to community, and is fertile soil for unhealthy suspicion of good and faithful servants of Jesus.
  3. It communicates that Christian maturity must have a certain style or appearance.  Not long ago, my pastor made the statement that, “Christian maturity is diverse.”  This is a helpful thought to keep in mind as we interact with our friends and local leaders on a daily basis.  Your pastor does not have to carry himself like your favorite preacher to be a godly, spirit-filled preacher of God’s word.  Your girlfriend does not have to talk like Elisabeth Elliot in order to passionately pursue purity in dating.  God made people with unique personalities to reflect his own artistic flare and creativity.  Let him receive glory by growing all different sorts of people into Christ likeness – bringing all of their personality quirks, oddities, and altogether wonderful flavors of temperament with them.  Learn to appreciate personality instead of comparing it to your own preference.

I love my heroes.  I cannot tell you the impact men like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and John Piper have had on my life.  But I am not them; and I shouldn’t expect myself be.  Heroes are more like signposts, lining the way as we focus on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)

“As saints of old still line the way
Retelling triumphs of His grace
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When with Christ we stand in glory”
-Keith Getty & Stewart Townsend