Friday, November 11, 2022
Everyone loves a hero. We honor them for their bravery. We commend them for running into places from which others run. They are the good news of an otherwise depressing media. Heroes are the subject of our legends. We construct monuments to commemorate their lives.
Few of us truly believe we have what it takes to be a hero. In fact, according to an old television show entitled Heroes, we have been led to believe that true heroism is somehow confined to the supernatural. Average people living average lives do average things, none of which results in recognition for heroism. Occasionally an average person does something spontaneously heroic in an emergency, but rarely do they ever admit to being a hero. For some reason we don’t want to accept accolades for rising above average even momentarily. We really want to remain anonymous.
The problem as I see it is that we have a poor definition of heroism. I think we could agree that a fundamental element of heroism is a willingness to sacrifice one’s life for another. That’s not the problem. But what does it mean to sacrifice one’s life for another? If we only consider life and breath, then we have missed a huge portion of what true heroism is. Sacrificing life means more than the death of body, but also includes the death of self.
Jesus is a hero for both reasons. He gave His physical life for others. But before He did that, He also died to self and became the servant of others. I love the way former professional tennis star Arthur Ashe says it – “True heroism is undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
1 Peter 4:8-10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
In July of 1980, at the International Youth Triennium in Bloomington, Indiana, Professor Bruce Riggins of McCormick Theological Seminary shared a story. He had met a very dedicated Christian woman who was working with the underprivileged people in London, England. He wanted to know what inspired her Christian faith and action. She shared her story with him of how seeing another Christian’s faith in action led her to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of her life.
She told the professor she was a Jew fleeing the German Gestapo in France during World War II. She knew she was close to being caught and she wanted to give up. She came to the home of a French Huguenot. A widow came to that home to say that it was time to flee to a new place. The Jewish lady said, “It’s no use, they will find me anyway. They are so close behind.” The Christian widow said, “Yes, they will find someone here, but it’s time for you to leave. Go with these people to safety—I will take your identification and wait here.” The Jewish lady then understood the plan; the Gestapo would come and find this Christian widow and think she was the fleeing Jew.
As Professor Riggins listened to her story, the Christian lady of Jewish descent looked him in the eye and said, “I asked her why she was doing that and the widow responded, ‘It’s the least I can do; Christ has already done that and more for me.’” The widow was caught and imprisoned in the Jewish lady’s place, allowing time for her to escape. Within six months the Christian widow was dead in the concentration camp. This Jewish lady never forgot that. She too became a follower of Jesus Christ and has lived her life serving others. She met God through the greatest love a person can give—personal self-sacrifice.
An authentic Christian living by faith serves others. That’s how the life of Christ is expressed. Jesus said that He came to this earth not to be served but to serve. The Apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus, “though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a servant and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:5-11 NLT)
He became a servant first. He gave up His rights and privileges to serve others. He sacrificed self before He sacrificed His life on the cross. He was a hero long before He died because it is in serving others that real heroes are born. Become a hero to someone today. Sacrifice self and use whatever you have to serve them.