Growing up, I wanted to be a hero. Like a lot of boys, I idolized police officers, firemen, Marines (not soldiers, for they were US Army and we couldn’t have that in a Marine household), and of course the superheroes in comic books and on TV. I didn’t start with my heroes being athletes, but that came later as I started to follow Bo Jackson and Don Mattingly and Byron Scott. Over the years I added to my hero list. My dreams were mirrors of what they did. For instance, belting a line drive out of Yankee Stadium and circling the bases to the cheers of the hometown crowd.
As I’ve gotten older, my definition of what makes a person a hero has changed. I know that the superheroes of comic book and cartoon fame are not real heroes to be emulated. It’s easy to be looked up to (even as a villain) when you have some special power that makes you able to do something significant that ordinary people can’t do. There are exceptions, of course, Bruce Wayne/Batman being the most notable, but even he started with great wealth to build the gadgets to make him who he was. And I’ve learned that sports stars aren’t heroes, either. Not for what they do on the field or the court, at least. Yes, their abilities may surpass anything I may ever do in that sport, but that doesn’t make someone a hero any more than being an excellent Monopoly player does.
So that does leave law enforcement, firemen, members of the armed forces and those like them. But by and large, most of them are plain, ordinary folks. They have dreams like the rest of us. They have fears like everybody else. They have their strengths and their flaws. They may be thrust into situation where their decisions and actions may be called heroic, but it seems rather ironic that those who have been put in those situations are often the last ones who want to be labeled as a hero. I can understand why. If you’re a hero, people want to talk about why. And if why was a tragic event, like your platoon nearly getting wiped out because of an ambush, the last thing you want to do is remember the day you lost so many comrades in arms.
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. – 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, NASB
Being a hero is about being willing and ready to make an important and needed sacrifice. Yes, police officers, fire fighters, members of the Armed Forces, and folks like them are all heroes. They willingly put themselves in harm’s way for the lives of others. This was true of the churches in Macedonia, too. They gave even beyond their ability to give. What spurred them on to this? The answer is simple: someone else needed the help. They were willing to sacrifice what they had for the benefit of others. That’s what made them heroes.
Now we don’t have to go charging into a firefight to be a hero. And we don’t have to give a million dollars to some charity fund to be a hero. But we do need to be willing to sacrifice. It could be our time. It could be our material resources. It could be our attitudes, our comfort, and our security. No, we don’t all have to be missionaries charging off to reach the unreached in foreign lands with extreme danger around every corner. But we’ve got to be willing to empty ourselves so God can use us, wherever we are and in however a way He so chooses. In other words, we have to be willing to give up control of our lives to Christ. He has already warned us about trying to hold to our earthly lives. If we do, we lose them. Therefore, we should seek to follow Christ’s example and empty ourselves out so God can fill us. Then we will be like our Savior. And then, well be heroes. I’ll close on this passage which reminds us of how much Christ gave up and willingly sacrificed, to offer grace and forgiveness to us who are called:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2:5-7, NASB