We are so silly - to the point of stupidity - about who we mark as "heroes" in our culture: From a LONG list, these few stand out just in this week's news: Michael Jackson and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford - both "heroes" of a sort.
Michael Jackson blurred the lines between insanity and genius with his music, his plastic surgeries and his lifestyle. Like Peter Pan, Jackson's own personal hero, he wanted to be the boy who never grew up.
In the arena of politics, Mark Sanford is only the latest in a long line of political figures who stepped off the straight, narrow path of morality, ethics and family values. He crossed the line from "genius" to the insanity of stupidity. Family man with a beautiful wife and four handsome sons, Sanford chose the insane path of infidelity over commitment and faithfulness.
There are other heroes. One of note is Oprah, one of the wealthiest women in the world. Her daily television program is watched religiously by millions. She is a living icon who has shaped culture in her own image. The "Oprah cult" is alive and seems well. She is a blazing star in this day and time.
The list of heroes - both real and fictional - goes on. Literature and life give us these heroes. They are larger than life. They do extraordinary things. They face danger, adversity and challenges with courage and self-sacrifice for some greater good. Our culture worships these heroes and models them.
The meaning of "hero" is rooted in the ideas of protector, defender and guardian. All too often the heroes in history, in literature and in real time here and now eventually evidence flaws that damage both themselves and others who have worshipped at their feet.
Particularly pop heroes (or heroines) shape culture with their music, beauty or brillance. The sad truth is that often these individuals betray the public trust by their actions. Brittany Spears, Madonna, Elvis Presley, Bill Clinton and a long list of others have blazed in glory and then crashed and burned.
The truth and problem is that we are all flawed no matter how we try to hide behind brillance and glitz. It started in the Garden of Eden when a man and a woman were seduced by wanting to be like God. They ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They passed on to all their posterity the pain of brokenness. Satan, once the most powerful and beautiful of all the angels, fell from the height of heaven because he wanted to be like and even more important than God Himself (Isaiah 14:12 - 14). There is something so seductive about beauty, prestige and power.
The stuff of heroes - both for the hero and his following - is sitting on a high pedestal surrounded by throngs of "worshippers." The true hero (or heroine) is the one who perseveres to the end protecting honor and integrity, defending right and good and guarding truth.
The only One who has ever lived and persevered as Protector, Defender and Guardian without flaw or failure is Jesus, the Son of God! He alone is worthy of our worship! He lived the perfect life so he could change our hearts and our culture forever.
Other heroes are flawed and broken no matter how they dress up with glitz and glitter. Jesus made no pretense. Jesus led no army. Jesus had no beauty that distinguished Him from other men (Isaiah 53:3). An endless stream of heroes have marched across the pages of literature and life, but only Jesus is the Hero Who never fails!
Jesus never wrote a best seller. He never was elected to political office. Actually He did none of the things that constitute a hero by our culture's standards. But His life validates Him as Hero more than any entertainer or politician or military genius. He never made a life-changing scientific discovery, but He created the world and all that is in it. He was born in obscurity but lives today as the King of Kings. He calls people from every time, tribe and tongue to follow His example of love. He modeled forgiveness when He called from His cross, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." He alone of all who have ever lived and carried the label "hero" is truly worthy of the name!