Monday, November 29, 2004

The Incredibles, Real-Life Style

Our Dependence on Lives Well Lived

One of our church members turned 100 years old today. Her body is frail, but her mind is still as sharp as ever. Best of all, though, is the condition of her soul. For longer than most of us will even live, she has seen and loved and walked with Jesus Christ, and her spiritual legacy abounds with family members and friends whose souls will forever bear her God-bearing fingerprints. The Apostle John gave us a great way to pray for her: “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 Jn 1:2).

Her life reminds me of the biblical mandate to have heroes. Not heroes who mean more to us than Jesus, but heroes who give us inspiration and vision and direction by their devotion and discipline, their accomplishments and aspirations, their flaws and failures. And yes, I do think having heroes is not an option; it’s a biblical mandate!

This is implied in the way Scripture is written—most of it is narrative. Apparently, we need more than just the truth in abstract form; we need to see it lived, breathed, broken, loved. “God loved the world” doesn’t hit us with quite the same force as the picture of Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn 11:35). Kind of like reality TV (which, of course, is hardly deserving of the name), we crave glimpses of real lives. We need heroes.

The writer of Hebrews makes this explicit when he says: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (13:7) This exhortation comes just a few paragraphs after he has named a dozen heroes (11:4-40) and used their lives as an argument for how we ourselves should live (12:1-2).

So here’s my suggestion to you. Sometime in the next few months, read a biography of a great Christian. Implied in this suggestion is one of the criteria I use to select my own heroes: pick somebody who’s dead. Hebrews 13:7 advises us to “consider the outcome of their way of life,” which we can’t quite measure until they’re finished living it. So save yourself the devastation of a fallen hero by restricting your “hero” category to dead dudes only. Or at least pick heroes you can be sure about because they’ve lived faithfully for the last 100 years!

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