If I were to ask you to define a hero, what kind of answer would you give? Some heroes wear colorful costumes with flowing capes. They exude strength. They uphold truth, justice and the American way. They possess superhuman powers and use highly sophisticated tools in pursuit of the villain. They are generous, intelligent, compassionate, driven to make the world a better place, and last but not least: strikingly handsome.
(Thank God these people don’t really exist or I would have never found a girl willing to date me!)
But for every Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Green Lantern come other heroes that don’t quite meet those lofty standards. Take a moment and consider heroes like Bullwinkle, Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey and Dudley Do-Right (those of you who are younger than me can consider this a Google opportunity). It seems almost a sacrilege to categorize these characters as heroes. They strut around in shabby clothes or rumpled up uniforms. They exude false bravado, confusion and cowardliness. They possess no special powers, and were it not for others around them quietly pointing them in the right direction they’d be complete and utter failures. It’s easy to see why these last four never got invited to hang out at the Hall of Justice with the “Super Friends.” But like it or not they fit into the category of hero, and in some ways they are more representative of the real life heroes that we see everyday.
How can this be? It’s simple: to be heroic does not require perfection. A character lacks depth if it never experiences any struggles or shortcomings. In fact, all good heroes possess flaws that make them more interesting. All of the aforementioned heroes have their weaknesses. They are what makes each individual unique while at the same time creating a common bond with all mankind.
The Bible is filled with heroes – people whose stories offer both the good and the bad sides of their personalities. Samson was blessed by God with incredible strength, but his ego combined with a poor choice in women proved to be his downfall. David was strongest when as a boy he stood up to a giant. Conversely, David was at his weakest when as a king he stood on his roof ogling another man’s wife. Jonah is credited with saving the people of Nineveh, but he did so smelling of fish guts as a result of his cowardice. Jesus proclaims Peter to be the rock upon which He would build his church, only to chastise him moments later, demanding: “Get behind me Satan.” Shameful. Embarrassing. Hardly heroic…
The Scriptures are filled with thieves, liars, cheats, adulterers, murderers, punks, and thugs. So where are all of the heroes? They are one and the same. These people were flawed but faithful – used by God to accomplish amazing things they could have never imagined if left to their own abilities. This is actually a good thing. We don’t need to invent crazy gadgets that trap bad guys or fall into a vat of nuclear waste to alter our genetic makeup so we can fly or shoot freeze rays out of our ears. We simply offer our lives to God who uses the gifts He designed us with to put us in the right place with the right skills to do the right things to advance the kingdom. Paul confirms this in the words of Ephesians 2:10, declaring: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Despite our shortcomings, God has a plan for us and through Him we can heroically accomplish what He has prepared for us to do. And best of all, we don’t need to wear those unflattering tights!