May 2015

God's Kind of Hero

Take a walk on any playground or watch your kids in your own backyard. You’ll see young imaginative children roleplaying their favorite fantasy action heroes. Maybe they’ll be pretending they have light sabers or super powers like the Avengers. This is nothing new. Before the recent flood of superhero movies, action heroes appeared regularly in comic books, swashbuckler films, on Saturday morning television, old-time radio, adventure novels, dime novels, pulp magazines, and folklore.  Even when literary hero Tom Sawyer was white washing his famous fence, his friend Ben Rogers walked up to him pretending to be his own hero, a steamboat captain on the Mississippi.

In our culture, the words “action” and “hero” come together. Beyond the fantasy of green monsters, Norse gods, and iron-clad men, we often see news about an ordinary person who acted when the need was great; someone who might have been afraid but responded in the moment and saved lives. Perhaps it was a firefighter, police officer, or soldier, but could just as likely have been an  office worker or tradesperson, a mere bystander. Each one was chosen ‘for such a time as this”.

“For such a time as this.” In Esther 4:14, by pointing out that with great power come great responsibility, Mordecai urges Esther to help her people. Attributing to coincidence or fate, today’s action scriptwriters place their heroes in the right place at the right time. However, the Biblical writers knew what Mordecai did: that Esther, Joseph, Rahab, Daniel and many others were placed at the right place at right time to play a part in God’s rescue plan for his people. When the angel meets Gideon, a man in hiding, the angel addresses him as “mighty warrior.” God did not see him for what he was at that moment, but He saw Gideon for what God himself would shape him to be. Gideon would respond to God’s call and become God’s kind of hero.

Hebrews 11 illustrates Old Testament people who had faith to respond to God’s call. God made each person into God’s kind of hero. Noah the God-worshiper loved God with his whole heart and was fully committed to obey God’s remarkable task for him. Abraham the image-reflector was prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice. Joseph the servant-worker carries out God’s plan to save all Egypt from a long drought in Egypt. Moses the justice-seeker delivers judgment on Pharaoh and redeems God’s people from slavery.  Like Sarah, each hero waited to discover God’s extraordinary plan to unfold and to become the person God wanted each one to be.

By reading scripture, we learn the power of God’s grace, and we learn what our part is in that story. We learn our identity as God’s people, and we learn who the God is whom we love and serve. Like Sarah, we too now wait to discover God’s extraordinary plan to unfold for us. God calls us to be His heroes.

A few years ago, during recess duty as a teacher, I observed an imaginative group of students. But this group had no superheroes or Star warriors in it. Instead, they were Peter, Susan, Lucy, Edmund, a white witch, and three Aslans retelling their favorite story of forgiveness and restoration. The resurrection scene was fantastic.

Ron VandenBurg

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