We Americans love heroes. In the movies, in music, in sports and sometimes even in the political arena, we put people on a pedestal and celebrate their achievements. Historical figures like Alexander the Great and Napoleon capture our fancy. United States military heroes such as Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower became our presidents.
But if you list your heroes - people who have made a real difference - first ask yourself how many of them made the list by living a life of ease and privilege. My hunch is that none of them did.
Heroes are those who make a way where there is no way that others can follow. Heroes place their purpose in life and the principles of their convictions ahead of personal accomplishments. Heroes put the needs of others before their own.
Sojourner Truth, an African-American woman, is a hero. She was converted and called by Christ in Civil War times to fight for the freedom of minorities and women. Dietrich Bonheofter is a hero because he refused to surrender to the demands of Hitler and instead utilized his time in prison writing prayers, singing psalms, and bearing witness to his faith while comforting and encouraging others before his own execution in a Nazi prison camp. His book, "The Cost of Discipleship," should be required reading for anyone who wants to become a Christian. Martin Luther King Jr. is a hero because he shared the dreamm the God placed in his heart - a dream that God's people were not ready for - unveiling the violence in our ways and dying at the hands of that exposed and terrified violence.
Yet not all heroes make headlines. Most never become famous. They just quietly and persistently do what is necessary for those they love and care for, and they strive to model excellence in thought, word, and deed.
I heard it stated recently at a funeral service by a young man who was offering a eulogy for his father. He told how his dad always took him to baseball and football games to watch the "superstars" and "heroes" he had admired. But then he remembered how his dad would also be at all his son's ballgames, school events and at all the important times in his life. Then he said, "I finally realized that it was my father who was the real hero in my life."
The world needs those kinds of heroes now more than ever. Ask God for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. Jesus said, "Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." (Luke 9:24)
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)