“And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead—they were raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.”
Prisons aren’t renowned to be full of heroes. I’m not sure that the next Avengers or X-Men movie will see Captain America, or Wolverine, meekly being handcuffed and placed in a 6 feet by 6 feet cell. Yet in the real world, prison remains a daily reality for so many people. And for some true ‘heroes’ amongst us, a prison cell is a direct result of their decision to stay aligned, solid and true, to Jesus.
Why do I say ‘heroes?’ Well, check out the verses above from Hebrews 11. It’s sobering stuff indeed, especially when the writer declares “The world was not worthy of them.” That’s an incredible affirmation, almost whispered in reverence, about ordinary people, making extraordinary decisions, fuelled by an extra-ordinary God.
It really contrasts with some of our ideas of what it means to be a ‘hero’. I know I can get hung up about a dream of being a ‘hero’ involving music, talent, fame and fortune. The ‘X factor’ version of Christianity, I guess, where being a hero means having a microphone, a big following, a voice to sway the crowds, and possibly a cheeky Porsche to get you to the next gig.
Is it possible, that being real and authentic is more important than being popular and celebrated?
The trouble comes when we discover that this dream, can itself become a prison. How? Yearning for a ‘name’ or a ‘stage’ can be a trap, always reminding us of what we don’t have, and where we need to be, in order to prove things to people we’ve never met, and get things we don’t even need. We can become dependent on anyone who can get us a gig, who can give us a ‘leg up,’ and help us with our career and stardom. In short, we don’t become heroic, we become fake.
Is it possible then, that strength comes through obedience, regardless of where we end up? Is it possible, that being real and authentic is more important than being popular and celebrated? Is it possible, that joy comes through knowing a King, rather than trying to be fake heroes ourselves?
Perhaps, if we know that we are not alone, we can choose to stand, regardless of the circumstance. Perhaps we can stand in school, in the office, in a bar, or at home. Whether it be standing in Manchester, Kabul, Sada, or Mosul, perhaps we can join together, under one Name, higher and more potent than anyone who has ever lived. Perhaps, we can partner under the name of Jesus, the one true hero, who gave everything for those he loved, and for what he believed.
Perhaps, you can have a think about how you can partner with Jesus, to help those in prison around the world right now? And perhaps you can join me in laying down our dreams of being fake heroes, so we can be real, strong and free, to heroically choose Jesus, wherever that may take us.