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LIFE MEETS THEOLOGY:

How To Be An Everyday Hero

by Greg Williamson (c) 2009

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UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED, ALL SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS

ARE FROM THE New American Standard Bible.

 NOTE: HOVER POINTER OVER BIBLE REFERENCES FOR POP-UPS

 

 

LIFE: God has blessed my wife and I with two healthy and happy little boys: Timothy just turned 8, and Daniel is 5 1/2. Just prior to Timothy's grand entrance into the world, I attended the "Boot Camp for New Dads" program being offered at the hospital where he was scheduled to be born. Besides the looks of sheer terror pasted on several of the dads' faces, what I most remember was the instructor's mantra to "Be the hero" -- meaning do the right thing regardless of how we might feel at the time.

 

The topic of heroes and heroism comes up fairly often in our home thanks to the several DVD movies we own and view regularly. That and the fact that Timothy (alias "Super T") and Daniel (alias "Super D") expend quite a bit of time and energy toward their self-created world of superheroes. One of the definitions for "hero" is "one that shows great courage." [ref] Recently we were discussing some of the differences between a helper and a hero: for one thing, whereas a helper may choose to help when doing so is convenient or rewarding, a hero is someone who does the right thing regardless.

 

’Tis nothing for a man to hold up his head in a calm; but to maintain his post when all others have quitted their ground and there to stand upright when other men are beaten down is divine. -- SENECA (c. 4 B.C.-A.D. 65) [ref]

 

It would appear that heroes are in short supply these days. But while I would be the first to affirm the fact that our society is becoming more of a moral and spiritual mess the more we veer from God's standards of right and wrong, I also cling to the belief that our world is filled with "everyday heroes" who do the right thing without fanfare or recognition. They put others before themselves, willingly share, and are ever ready to help. You won't see their stories plastered on the front page of the local newspaper, or see them featured on the nightly news. But they are there nonetheless. And it is everyday heroes who do the most good and make a positive difference in our world. (I realize all this may come as a shock to TIME magazine and the big three television networks, who insist on looking to immoral Hollywood actors and self-serving Washington politicians for guidance.)

 

If we want our life to really count for something, then we need to be an everyday hero. In case you are not sure exactly how to get started, here are a few suggestions:

  • Set priorities: 1) Faith. 2) Family. 3) Friends.

  • Pursue JOY: Jesus - Others - Yourself

  • Determine to be a GREAT disciple of Jesus: Genuine - Relational - Enthusiastic - Active - Thankful

THEOLOGY: What do the Scriptures teach about heroes, and what are some practical lessons we can apply to our everyday lives? (The remainder of this article draws heavily from "Hero/Heroine" in the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery [DOBI].)

 

Heroes represent a particular culture, and those within that culture can identify with what the hero experiences, including hardships and struggles. Heroes "embody values or virtues that a culture wishes to affirm," and while not perfect they nonetheless set an example worthy of emulation. Heroes inspire us and provide a tangible example of our "values and beliefs." [DOBI]

 

Have plenty of courage. God is stronger than the devil. We are on the winning side.

-- JOHN JAY CHAPMAN (1862–1933) [ref]

 

In one sense the Bible is the story of an extraordinary God working in and through very ordinary people. It's well worth remembering that the biblical characters we tend to idolize were real people with real problems just like us. It was as they exercised their faith in an all-powerful, loving God that they were able to turn their problems into opportunities for the accomplishment of much good.

 

Aristocratic Heroes. "The ancient world was enamored of the power and authority represented by rulers." [DOBI] In the OT this is reflected in the example of Israel's kings, the greatest of which was David. "[A] nation's whole destiny was tied to the ruler as representative, a conviction reinforced in the OT by the assumption that a king was the one through whom the covenant would be honored or dishonored, with resultant national blessing or misfortune. Of course a king can be a villain as well as a hero, and a notable feature of OT court chronicles is how many of the rulers were villainous rather than heroic." [DOBI] Alas, following the division of Israel the vast majority of her kings forgot God and led their people to do the same.

 

Everyday heroes in positions of leadership -- whether secular or religious -- deserve our respect and qualified submission but never our worship (see Prayer, Submission, and Our New President). Those worth emulating will be quick to affirm that only God is worthy of our absolute allegiance. Any leader -- whether secular or religious -- who ignores God's standards of right and wrong and leads others to do likewise is more of a villain than a hero.

 

This is my command -- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. -- THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY [ref]

 

Religious Heroes. The Bible presents us with four groups or categories of religious heroes. 1) "[T]he OT priestly caste, whose main function was to represent the people to God, especially through the sacrificial system." [DOBI] 2) "Later ... prophets became the most visible class of religious heroes, known chiefly for their courage in bringing God's word of judgment to apostate people and nations." [DOBI] 3) The NT gives special prominence to missionaries, understood as being comparable to OT prophets. 4) The apostles, specially chosen by Jesus and commissioned to carry his Gospel to all the world. [DOBI]

 

(For relevant info related to contemporary Christian leaders, please see The Church: Authoritative Teaching.)

 

Take courage. We walk in the wilderness today and in the Promised Land tomorrow.

-- D. L. MOODY (1837-1899) [ref]

 

The Common Person Hero. While the tendency may be to honor the rich and powerful, "people at the lower end of the social spectrum can achieve heroic status as well." [DOBI]

 

Along those lines, the Bible presents the humble shepherd as a hero who provides for and protects his sheep, with David in the OT (Psalms 23) and Jesus in the NT (John 10:1-18) being the greatest examples.

 

For an agrarian society the farmer is an example of faith, patience, and hard work (2 Timothy 2:6; James 5:7).

 

While the world takes little notice of servants, the Bible "elevates the role of the servant, especially as a metaphor of the believer's relationship to God" [DOBI] (1 Samuel 3:9; Joshua 1:2; Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:18; Luke 22:27; Acts 2:18; 3:13, 25-26; Ephesians 6:5-8; 2 Timothy 2:24). The ultimate servant hero is "the suffering servant -- the figure who undergoes unmerited suffering that is redemptive in the life of others" [DOBI] (Isaiah 53:12; cf 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 12:7; cf 1 Peter 1:6-7; 3:18). Needless to say, the idea of serving and suffering as forms of heroism runs directly counter to the no-suffering-or-pain-allowed mentality of our consumer-driven society. From pills to thrills, we "deserve" anything we want -- or so we are told.   

 

Children are very capable of heroic faith and faithfulness. "The prime example is David, homespun giant slayer who performs his feat with a sling and a stone. In the same category is the boy Samuel, singled out by God to carry a prophetic message to his master, Eli the priest. Josiah was a mere eight years old when he assumed his godly reign as king of Judah (2 Kings 22:1-2). The virgin Mary rises to heroic status in her acceptance of her role in the annunciation story (Luke 1:26-56). We also catch glimpses of youthful heroism in characters whose stories are not fully told, such as Miriam when her baby brother Moses was entrusted to the Nile River, and Jesus as a boy of twelve years confounding the rabbis in the temple (Luke 2:46-47)." [DOBI]

 

"Wives and mothers also rise to heroic status in the Bible. The virtuous wife of Proverbs 31:10-31 is a composite of all that a domestic heroine might aspire to be, and we should note in this regard that physical attractiveness is regarded as suspect (Proverbs 31:30)." [DOBI] This is a very much needed reminder in light of the assertion by some (radicalized) feminists that such roles are a part of "patriarchy, i.e., the systematic oppression of women by men in social structures and institutions. ... [wherein women are] owned and controlled through the tyranny of marriage, sex and child-bearing." [ref]

 

The Bible is a first-hand story of goose-bump courage in very ordinary people who were invaded by the living God. -- TIM HANSEL [ref]

 

Intellectual Heroes. "In the world's literature heroes have mainly been characterized by physical accomplishment. An alternative is the hero or heroine known chiefly by mental ability." [DOBI] In the Bible this includes:

  • those blessed with extraordinary insight

  • the person who values and seeks after true wisdom

  • the rabbi or teacher

  • the person who spends time in quiet, thoughtful, prayerful meditation

  • anyone who uses his/her oratorical skills to convey God's message to others

Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is? -- FRANK SCULLY [ref]

 

Exemplary Character as Heroic. "Every story in the Bible is in some sense an 'example story,' along the lines of the statement in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that the historical records of the Bible 'were written down for our instruction.' Biblical narrative, like narrative generally, pursues two complementary ways of instructing us: it gives us positive models of behavior to emulate and negative examples to avoid. The positive examples are images of heroism." [DOBI]

 

While the Bible sometimes presents "an extended portrait of heroism," its specialty is to show ordinary people who at times demonstrate "kindness, moral or physical strength, devotion, perseverance, faith, wisdom, and many other heroic traits." [DOBI] Heroism and common human failings live side by side, sending the message "that people do not need to be perfect to be heroic." [DOBI]

 

"The composite hero that emerges from the pages of the Bible is the saint -- the person characterized chiefly by faith in God and obedience to God's commands. The archetypal gestures of this hero or heroine are submission to God, prayer, piety, reliance  on God, repentance, humility and faith. This figure is at odds at many turns with the conventional hero of literature, whose typical gestures include pride, self-reliance, acquisition of power, material prosperity, sexual gratification and self-assertion. While such saintly heroism is within any believer's reach, biblical narrative tends to elevate heroes and heroines who display them with extraordinary courage and boldness in hostile or difficult circumstances" (emphasis added). [DOBI]

 

Who can rightly argue against the fact that this world is full of "hostile or difficult circumstances"? But just as with the heroes of the Bible, we living today have an incredible opportunity to make a real and lasting difference in our world by becoming everyday heroes. How? By exercising our faith in God through "submission to God, prayer, piety, reliance on God, repentance, humility and faith."

 

Moral courage, the courage of one's convictions, the courage to see things through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It's the age-old struggle -- the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other.

-- DOUGLAS MACARTHUR  (1880-1964) [ref]

 

Jesus: The Ultimate Hero. Our cursory survey would be incomplete if we failed to mention the greatest hero of all, Jesus Christ. Jesus perfectly exemplifies all of the qualities and characteristics associated with a hero, a fact easily seen in the many metaphors, titles, and names applied to him. A sampling (drawn from the NIV): [ref]

  • Advocate (1 John 2:1)

  • Almighty (Revelation 1:8)

  • Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13)

  • Anointed One (Psalms 2:2; Daniel 9:25; Acts 4:25-27)

  • Atoning Sacrifice (1 John 2:2)

  • Author of Faith (Hebrews 12:2)

  • Author of Life (Acts 3:15)

  • Author of Salvation (Hebrews 2:10)

  • Beginning and End (Revelation 22:13)

  • Branch (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12)

  • Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48-51)

  • Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15; 25:1-13; John 3:29)

  • Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)

  • Commander of the Lord's Army (Josh. 5:14-15)

  • Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6)

  • Deliverer (Romans 11:26)

  • Eternal Life (1 John 5:20)

  • Exact Representation of God's Being (Hebrews 1:3)

  • Faithful and True Witness (Revelation 3:14)

  • First and Last (Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 22:13)

  • Gift of God (John 4:10; 2 Corinthians 9:15)

  • Glory of Israel (Luke 2:32)

  • God (Mark 2:1-12l Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20)

  • Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14)

  • High Priest (Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14; 6:20)

  • Holy One (of God) (Psalms 16:10; Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35; John 6:69; Acts 2:27)

  • Hope of Israel (Acts 28:20)

  • Horn of Salvation (Luke 1:69)

  • Image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Col. 1:15)

  • King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16)

  • King of the Ages (Revelation 15:3)

  • Lamb (of God) (John 1:29, 36; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:6, 8, 12-13; 6:1; 6:16; 7:9-10, 14; 12:11; 13:8; 14:1, 4; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7, 9; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3)

  • Life (John 11:25; 14:6; Col. 3:4)

  • Light (of the World) (John 1:1-2, 4-9; 8:12; 9:5)

  • Light for the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6; Luke 2:32)

  • Living One (Revelation 1:18)

  • Living Stone (1 Peter 2:4)

  • Lord of All (Acts 10:36; Romans 10:12)

  • Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16)

  • Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3)

  • Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24)

  • Messiah (John 1:41; John 4:25)

  • Only Begotten (John 1:14; 3:16; 1 John 4:9)

  • Overseer (1 Peter 2:25)

  • Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7)

  • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

  • Prophet (Luke 24:19; John 7:40; Acts 3:22)

  • Rabbi (Mark 14:45; John 1:38; 1:49; 3:2; 6:25; 9:2)

  • Radiance of God's Glory (Hebrews 1:3)

  • Ransom (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

  • Redeemer (Job 19:25; Isaiah 59:20)

  • Righteous Judge (Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:8)

  • Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 John 2:1)

  • Righteous Servant (Isaiah 53:11)

  • Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:8)

  • Root of David (Revelation 5:5; 22:16)

  • Savior (Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Acts 5:31; 13:23; Ephesians 5:23; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 2:13; 3:6; 2 Peter 1:11; 3:18; 1 John 4:14)

  • Servant (Isaiah 42:1; 49:3-7; 52:13; 53:11; Zechariah 3:8; Matthew 12:18; Luke 22:27; Acts 3:13; 3:25-26)

  • Shepherd (Matthew 2:6; 1 Peter 2:25)

  • Son of God (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 4:3; 8:29; Luke 1:35; John 1:34; 1:49; 5:18; 10:36; 15:10; 19:7; 20:17, 30-31; Acts 9:20; Romans 1:4; 8:3, 32; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:3; 1 John 4:14; 5:5, 20; Revelation 2:18)

  • Son of Man (Daniel 7:13; Matthew 8:20; 10:23; 11:19; 13:37, 41; 16:13; 17:9; 17:22; 24:27, 30; 25:31; 26:2; 26:24; 26:45; Mark 2:28; 8:38; 9:12; Luke 5:24; 6:22; 11:30; 12:8; 17:22; 19:10; 21:36; John 1:51; 3:13; 5:27; 6:53; 6:62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23; 13:31; Acts 7:56; Revelation 1:13)

  • Stone (Matthew 21:42; 1 Peter 2:4-8)

  • Teacher (Matthew 19:16; 23:10; John 11:28; 13:13)

  • True Light (John 1:9)

  • (True) Witness (Isaiah 55:4; John 18:37; Revelation 3:14)

  • Vine (John 15:1)

  • Way (John 14:6)

  • Wisdom (Proverbs 8:12; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, 30)

  • Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

  • Word (of God) (John 1:1, 14; Revelation 19:13)

  • Word of Life (1 John 1:1)

 

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] -- JESUS CHRIST [ref]

 

 


SOURCES

(Click on the title for more information.)

 

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World

,Amplified

Holy Bible, New Living Translation (2nd ed)

Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary

New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology

Random House Webster’s Quotationary

Topical Analysis of the Bible


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