March 12, 2007

Did You Ever Know That You’re My Hero?
By Pastor George Van Alstine

â—? Mel Gibson made his mark as a young, handsome leading man and emerged to become a promising director and producer. The Christian community learned about his personal faith when he was promoting his epic film “The Crucifixion.â€? He seemed to epitomize the Christian celebrity, modeling how a person in the center of the public can stand for Jesus.

. . . . . And then came the collapse. In one night’s drunken binge, Mel Gibson’s reputation crashed. Charged with Driving Under the Influence, he angrily cursed the police, made lewd remarks to a female officer, and spewed anti-Semitic hatred.

â—? Kobe Bryant came straight from high school to play basketball with the Lakers at 16. Handsome, bright, unbelievably athletic, he worked hard to be the very best player he could be. There seems to be a growing consensus that Kobe will someday be revered as the best player of all time. Nike sold many sneakers using his name, and that was just the beginning of his multi-million dollar commercial endorsements. Kids all over the world wore Number 8 on their blue-and-gold Laker jerseys.

. . . . . And then we were all shocked by serious sexual accusations against him. Our initial response that there must be some mistake (“Not Kobe!â€?) gave way to the realization that there was strong evidence that this brilliant, talented young man had acted like an animal.

â—? Lisa Nowak was an experienced Navy test-pilot when she became an astronaut in 1966. In July 2003 she was part of a 13-day flight on the Discovery space shuttle. She was a rising star in NASA’s space program, and she became a role model for many girls and women considering an adventurous career in space exploration.

. . . . . But this very accomplished, self-motivated, goal-oriented woman fell victim to her own emotions. She developed a school-girl crush on an attractive male astronaut who was in the program with her. She became so jealous of a rival for his affections that she stalked her, wearing a disguise, and apparently tried to kidnap her. In the process, she made a complete fool of herself in the national news media. Dismissed from NASA’s astronaut program, Lisa has lost her career and her reputation.

The popular song “Wind Beneath My Wingsâ€? has become more and more embraced as a tribute to people who seem very important as role models. It has been increasingly used in weddings and even funerals to express admiration for individuals who have a powerful positive affect on the lives of others. Its most memorable line is probably this: “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?â€?

This acknowledgment that we have and need heroes in our lives should always be tempered by the reminder that heroes will inevitably fail us if they are glamorized and placed on a pedestal. Our personal role models will, not may, but will let us down.

Our heroes are human, and we do them no favor when we overlook their humanity. It’s unfair to them. Sometimes, in fact, we may be setting them up for a fall by having unrealistic expectations of them.

In the Christian community, we all have the potential to be role models for one another. In one situation, I may be an encouragement to you by my example. But the very next day, our roles may be reversed, as you are the example for me to follow, the wind beneath my wings.

There is only one true Hero for the Christian, the one whose name and number we wear on our jerseys—“Jesus, Number 1.â€? There are two passages in the Book of Hebrews where the Greek word archegos is used of Jesus. It is translated as “pioneer,â€? “captain,â€? or “author.â€? However, I think “heroâ€? is probably a good translation as well. I’ll quote the two passages, using the word “heroâ€?:

“It was fitting that God, for whom and by whom all things exit, in bringing many children to glory, should make their hero perfect through suffering.â€? (Hebrews 2:10)

“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the hero and completer of our faith.â€? (Hebrews 12:1-2)

As believers, we are asked to encourage and nudge one another along, but we are not asked to be each others heroes. Jesus is the only dependable hero of our faith.