Sunday, July 7, 2013

We Can Be Heroes (for more than one day)

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek. He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound...and they shall build the wastes of old, and they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations." Is. 61:1-4

"Oh? Were you looking for me?"
The best kind of hero is the one you don't expect. From the mysterious stranger coming out of nowhere to the unassuming bumpkin rising to the occasion (kicking and screaming all the way), the best heroes are always a surprise. They come into the midst of the darkness and turn the whole thing on its head, like some kind of anarchist of virtue or orthodox rebel. They do not fit into any of the categories laid out for them, neither from the people they came to save (whose presuppositions about heroism had long since stagnated and atrophied) nor the evil they came to overthrow (for darkness cannot comprehend the light).

That heroism is to be an exciting, topsy-turvey affair can be clearly seen in the life of Jesus. He walked right into the life of Israel and threw the whole place into an uproar. He confused and upset everyone, from skeptical Sadducees and dogmatic Pharisees to even His own disciples. He told devout Jews that their father was Satan rather than Abraham (John 8:31-47), that He came to save others besides them (Luke 4:16-30; John 10:11-16), and explained that salvation in such a surreal fashion that most of His followers abandoned Him (John 6:53-66). He was unexpected and unnerving, breaking the hearts of enthusiastic young fans (Luke 18:18-23), the backs of entrepreneurial shopkeepers (Mark 11:15-19), and the minds of His disciples (Mark 4:36-41). As Sayers put it, He passed through this world like a flame, and all who met Him were flummoxed to exasperation: "We have seen strange things today!" (Luke 5:26).

Jesus' ability to turn everyone's world upside-down can only mean two things: either He is a villain stepping into a good world, decimating its peace; or He is a hero stepping into an evil world, agitating its corruption. There are some who hold to the former, but Christians hold to the latter. In either case, however, it cannot be said that He was boring or predictable or "run-of-the-mill". His good works suggest His heroism, but His unexpectedness confirms it completely, for true heroism is full of surprises, being a surprise itself.

There is, however, one last surprise that Jesus' heroism delivers, and that is in regard to those He came to save. We who have been saved and are being saved were the helpless ones, the captives and prisoners, slaves to Sin and despair and destruction. Jesus released us from those chains but not into the empty air. He did not pluck us from dungeons deep, dust us off, set us on the road, and bid us farewell as we wander wherever we please. Rather, He brought us out so that He might bring us in. He delivered us from darkness so that we might be translated into light (Col. 1:13-14). He "reconciled" us so that we may be given His "ministry of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:19-20). The hero did not save us to live unto ourselves but to live like and for Him (II Cor. 5:14-15). In short, the hero saved us and has called us to be heroes as well.

It is a surprise worthy of any adventure story. The hero, being the person you least expected, comes and calls to heroism others whom you expected even less. Jesus' disciples were like this. He called fishermen, tax collectors, and other dregs and nobodies, pulling together and to His side a bunch of hot-headed, fearful, overly-ambitious, greedy pack of clods. They were the epitome of a rag-tag band, yet they turned the world upside-down (Acts 17:6). And it is to this same band we have been called.

"Samwise the brave...."
It is alright to call it strange. God's logic is strange to us, but it is only the same strange logic of every great adventure: use the weak and foolish and despised to upset and overthrow the great and mighty (I Cor. 1:26-31). Every great hero is a bumpkin, like a nobody carpenter from Nazareth whom everyone thought was crazy. And God calls all bumpkins to His side, the broken and abused and forgotten and weak, so that we can be heroes, so that He can continue to do great and surprising works through us.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment