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Where have all the heroes gone?

I recently watched a Veggie Tales movie with my son called “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.” Early in the movie a fight breaks out on a pirate ship transporting a royal family in need of rescue from an evil tyrant.

One of the pirates proclaims:

Where are the heroes?  We need some heroes!

This is a question for Christians to consider. There are many cultural narratives of what heroism looks like. Some are biblical and some are not.

When I think of heroism in God’s terms, I think of Romans 15:1-2.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

This verse describes the different characteristics of heroism:

  • Helping those who are in need.
  • Buttressing the weaknesses of others with our strengths and vice versa .
  • Contributing to the lifting up of our neighbors and concerning ourselves with their welfare.

These are all active words. Being a hero means being a helper, supporter, and friend.

Hollywood portrays heroes in quite a different light: they have supernatural powers and wear capes. As much as I enjoy a superhero movie, I think this is a sad definition of what being a hero means. It’s sad because it’s intangible.

Since I can’t fly when I don a cape and I can’t always discern the good guys from the bad guys, how can I be a hero?

Embodying heroism as Christ defines it means we must not look to Hollywood but to him. We must help those who are in need. We need to offer our strengths to others to support their areas of weakness.

This is how God calls us to love and serve others. How in the world do we accomplish these things?  Here is a little thought experiment. Look at the pictures below and pick out the heroes:

     

 

 

 

 
Most of us would probably choose one of the first two pictures. Maybe you had an internal debate with yourself about whether the fireman or physician was more worthy of the “hero” title. The fireman puts his life at risk. The doctor saves lives with very specialized skills. But very few of us probably chose the third image, which is of a construction worker.

Why is that?

Our culture has taught us that you have to fit into a certain vocational mode to be deemed a hero. But the Bible has a much different story to tell.

God has created each of us specifically, uniquely and with purpose. God makes no mistakes. To those whom He has gifted extraordinary construction skills, much is expected, just as with any other skill.

Psalms 90:17 tells us that God has established our vocation:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.

It is through our work that we can make the greatest contributions to the Kingdom of God. It is through the work of our hands that we offer our strengths where others are weak.

Have you ever thought about that? There are many things that I am incapable of producing, because I was not born with the special skills they require. But the beauty is that each of our strengths can support those areas of weakness in others.

We accomplish this through our work and through trade. God created us with unique talents and skills because he knows we are incapable of being able to do everything on our own. So through our work we are brought into community with one another, to help those who are weaker and support our neighbors.

I would argue that all three of the above photos could depict a hero. A hero is someone who is:

  • Obediently following God’s will for their life.
  • Sacrificing for their neighbor.
  • Lifting up those who are weak.

The construction worker plays a critical role. Without the building, the doctor can’t do his job. Neither could the fireman, or anyone else who requires a building in which to work.

The construction worker can serve others, support the weaknesses of others and glorify God by pursuing his skills with integrity, purpose and obedience.

Recall the story of David and Goliath: what makes a hero is not size, stature or supernatural powers, but obedience, faith and the pursuit of excellence within the work we are called to carry out.

What do you think? Have you had a biblical view of what a hero is? How does the concept of vocation change your definition of a hero? Leave your comments here

Dr. Anne Bradley

About Dr. Anne Bradley

Anne Bradley, Ph.D. is Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. Anne received her Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. She is a visiting professor at Georgetown University and has previously taught at George Mason University and at Charles University in Prague. Read More...

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