When I was small and you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have told you: Indiana Jones. I wanted to be an archaeologist with a whip, hat and the adventure to go along. Indy was my hero. I suppose most boys growing up have heroes that they envision themselves one day becoming. At a later stage I read a biography of South American liberator Simon Bolivar and became fascinated with the idea of being a hero on a national or even global scale. As a Christian as I read biographies of missionaries who really made a difference in this world it strikes a chord deep down – maybe its a masculinity thing, Wild at Heart if you like. To this day there’s something that grips me when I hear stories about great men achieving great things on a great scale – the kind of people who get their own wiki entry. In many ways I guess I’ve pursued that ideal – I’ve wanted to be that hero with the wiki entry. Most times my motivation is completely self-absorbed and full of pride. Yet something else has helped me recently to re-orientate myself regarding my understanding of the concept of a hero. Over the last few years I’ve had the chance to see and meet heroes face to face. I’ve been able to talk with them and hear their stories:
I once met a black man who, under the previous regime, was horribly beaten by white policemen when during a peaceful march he was chased into a barbed wire fence where he got stuck and was cruelly struck. Today he’s a pastor who works not only in a black community but also in gospel partnership with other white pastors and Christians – he welcomed me into his home and treated me as his closest brother. He’ll never have a wiki entry, but he is undoubtedly a hero.
I’ve met young people slavishly giving their lives over to rescuing homeless folk from a downward spiral into drunkenness despair and death. I see them daily put up with so much crap from so many of these homeless people, some of them even face threats on their very lives from the people they’re trying to help and yet day after day they come back and they love them. These people live on the front line of this broken world – they’ll never get a wiki-entry like Mother Teresa, but they are undoubtedly heroes.
I’ve also met a young man who confessed his struggle with homosexual desires to me. He is convinced above all things that gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope for this world and so where others would council him to embrace his homosexuality he has instead shunned it and lived in opposition to it so that he might please Christ rather than man. Internally it must be a mammoth struggle – a war – but its a war that will never be covered in a wiki entry even though it produces a hero of heroes.
All along I’ve wanted to be a hero of the wiki variety and I’ve foolishly missed the stunning examples of heroism that are all around me. In one sense I shouldn’t be surprised because all of these people do follow a man, a suffering servant who was sinless and perfect yet the world chose to mock him, spit on him and crucify him in a horrible death. This death he died so that this broken world might be set free. In the process he has spawned an army of suffering servants, most of whom will never have wiki entries but all of whom will one day be crowned heroes because of him and his heroic work.