An examiniation of the criteria for recognizing a true hero.
Heroes’ lives exhibit extraordinary personal character, such as could be labeled “Christ-like” in that they proved the value and virtue of the so-called “golden rule” by placing others before self and/or by demonstrating action tied to an abiding faith regardless of the personal cost. Ultimately, God’s character is on display in the lives of truly authentic heroes who could have, but did not, claim credit. They realize that they did only what God asked of them and what God gifted them to be capable of performing. A good working definition of a hero would be similarity to Jesus as a suffering servant; rather than as the world identifies a hero as a person who was physically or politically or socially dominant, successful, or accepted. True heroes don’t always do something physical; that is aren’t always involved in death-defying risk or action; although they most certainly may have been. (Whether referring to a woman or a man, I use only the male suffix for consistency because “heroine” has a confusing connotation and lacks the common usage and acceptance of generic “hero”.)
They demonstrate and/or uphold Judeo-Christian worldviews that are decidedly superior to exclusively secular ones. Superior in the sense that they hold to lasting, eternal principles which best endure the fluctuating moods of passing generations. We are repeatedly cautioned in the Bible and in the writings of conservative scholars not to dismiss, replace, or ignore the proven standards of the preceding ages when facing choices, evaluating changes, or appraising circumstances that test our character. The passing ages have validated the wisdom of these admonishments. We are repeatedly cautioned in the Bible and in the writings of conservative scholars not to dismiss, replace, or ignore the proven standards of the preceding ages when facing choices that set consequences in motion, when evaluating changes that create adaptation and growth, when undergoing circumstances that prove the quality of our character. Tests and trials regularly visit our lives through challenges by way of the aforementioned elements of character, choices, and changes. The interaction between them is what makes our life so compelling.
What is a Judeo-Christian worldview; i.e. a non-secular one? The Judeo portion reflects the righteous living confirmed in the Old Testament and the Christian portion reflects the “mind of Christ” as confirmed in the New Testament. The combined whole is revealed to us in general ways by our study of the Bible’s sixty-six books and in specific ways by our practical applications in affiliated prayer, fellowship, and ministry. These are supplemented in a universal sense by the increasing knowledge gained through deeper explorations of the outer space of the universe with telescopes and through deeper explorations of the inner space of the atom with microscopes. These are true because their results continually illuminate the God’s creative nature as expressed in everything around us. A secular worldview, that applies different evaluation standards, may conclude — in direct contrast — that those I select are not heroes but rather even failures or losers. These men and women, however, are genuine heroes when God’s eternal standards are applied to them.
Heroes proscribe to a singular consolidated Judeo-Christian worldview, as opposed to a bi-furcated one that assigns spirituality and science to two different realms of life. That is, the Judeo-Christian worldview integrates “religious” and “real-world” beliefs and activities as opposed to maintaining a “wall-of-separation” between them; e.g. the spiritual is not assigned to only church functions on Sunday and to personal Bible reading during the week while all politics, science, education, and social beliefs and activities remain strictly secular. God is active in all realms, He cannot be assigned to operate in only the world’s corners, basements, and attics. God does not exclude Himself from any realms, and neither should we exclude Him. What worldview is held by an individual may strike some readers as an incidental element of one’s personhood, but it is as fundamental to the core of their being as the book of Genesis is to the Bible — they are both the wellspring of all that follows.
The truths that were treasured and that were successful in former times don’t diminish or mutate with time but continue to hold firm that they may help and sustain us when we retain our allegiance to them. The truths that heroes lived, and some died for, would be valid in any century, society, or county. Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. (Jeremiah 31: 21) Truth is eternal and is not relative; if it changes, then it cannot be truth. If it does not change, then our standards, virtues, and values — which are byproducts — should not change either. Therefore, what represents a hero and what a hero represents do not change with time or place or situation either. Two centuries ago, Pontus Pilot asked Jesus, “What is truth?” It’s assumed that Jesus did not respond, but that is incorrect. Jesus responded by standing silently and unmoved before Pilot because He is Truth (John 14:6). It was the Roman ruler — even after cautions by his wife — that failed to recognize and/or accept the obvious answer. The better question would have been, Who is Truth?
Contemporary media, sports, and entertainment do not highlight heroes; rather they highlight celebrities. The two are rarely interchangeable. They sometimes laud individuals whom they have identified as “speaking truth to power.” This is an empty and over-used catch-phrase. Heroes are truth-tellers, although not because of a single highly public or contrived incident, but because that is how they consistently live. It’s more than the words they speak; it’s that their actions are synchronized to their words and vice versa.
Some argue that the measure of heroes is how they add merit to the status of the individual; others argue that the true measure is how they add merit to the status of society as a whole. My position is that they add merit to both outcomes, as the two outcomes are not in opposition but are compatible — and they add merit by both their speech and their actions; i.e. words and deeds.