We all don’t have the same heroes, but most of us do have at least a few. As we marked Veteran’s Day this past Saturday I was impressed with the many pictures on Facebook of people’s loved ones who had served in our nation’s military. Without using the word, I’m confident those who posted pictures consider their veteran family members and friends heroes.
The dictionary defines a hero as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” I’m good with that definition, and with that understanding I think we have quite a few heroes in a variety of roles in life.
What sparked my thinking about the subject of heroes was a brief article I read back in October. Mark Galli, editor in chief of Christianity Today, commented on a biography of the well-known theologian Karl Barth that gave a lot of detail about Barth’s long term affair. Like Galli, I too was saddened by it.
Last week I read about a biography of C. S. Lewis in which the author presented him “warts and all.” John G. Stackhouse Jr. notes in this account Lewis “emerges as a real man” and that “he’s right down here among us.” Stackhouse also comments on a biography about the German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was “another undoubted genius who has been placed on his own pedestal.” In this book, like the books about Barth and Lewis, Bonhoeffer too is presented “as a real person with real faults.”
It shouldn’t surprise us that those we admire for their courage, achievements, or noble qualities are not perfect. They are real people with warts and real faults; but that doesn’t mean they cannot still be heroes. It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said about Christians and the Gospel, “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (II Corinthians 4:7).
Most readers can relate to Galli’s acknowledgement, “One never forgets the occasion of being let down by someone you admire.” He continues, “I’ve long hoped to find a heroic figure whom I can admire unflinchingly. But time and again, I’ve had to discover there is no such person.” I don’t think I’ve ever been considered a hero, but I know in my life and ministry I have disappointed and let down people who admired me.
That’s why we need to keep our heroes in perspective. We can look up to them, and appreciate a lot about them, without demanding they be flawless. After all, no one’s perfect
But as Galli notes, there was one – the True Man – who was perfect and “has been known to use ignoble things to shine for his glory.” I’ve seen his glory in many of my heroes, and I hope quite a few have seen his glory in me, flawed and imperfect as I am.
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