Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Have Only One Hero

We often had lively theological debates in college. I remember that one of the debates we had wasn't a theological debate, however, but about what superhero was better than the others (I was actually more of a spectator of this one than a participant). It quickly got heated when one of the participants was offended that his superhero was easily shown to be the inferior (I mean, really, anytime you put a superhero up against Superman, you're not really going to win that debate unless you pull the "what if he has kryptonite in his pocket" routine). But the debater who was offended then started to curse because he was so angry at the diminishing of his hero (yes, it was not one of our better moments at Bible college). The debate wasn't the most important one we've ever had, but it does demonstrate a very important point: we bind ourselves to our heroes and when people attack them, we feel attacked.

We're particularly bound to our heroes because they have made some sort of impact upon our lives. When one critiques them, he or she is not merely critiquing the hero, but what we consider to be our valuable experiences gained from people we now love for their contribution to our lives. Some heroes are actors, as they provide a vicarious experience for us in a way that makes us feel as though we were on the adventure, learned life lessons, had romances, shared friendships with them. Of course, all is fantasy in that regard. Other heroes are much more real in their contribution to our lives, such as teachers, pastors, parents, friends, etc. Attack these heroes, and you will be quickly dismissed by anyone who has not learned to distinguish them from gods.

In fact, the inability to have your heroes critiqued for their faulty ideas or practices evidences what is often referred to as "hero-worship." Hero-worship is when we make excuses for the beliefs or practices of our heroes so that we can continue to give them respect and adoration. When someone does not excuse them, we're offended. In fact, if anyone dares to bring up their faults, we view that person as arrogant, since only an arrogant person would defy the gods, in this case, our gods.

Hero worship becomes dangerous for this reason. It's not that we shouldn't have love and  respect for those who have contributed to our lives. In the case of parents and teachers, the Bible tells us to honor them. The problem becomes when we honor them more than we honor God by not letting God via His Word and His messengers critique our other parents and teachers. This is why Christ said that "he who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." In fact, in the critique Christ would provide of parents, he even tells us that our attitude should mimic hatred in view of our consideration and love for Him (a rejection of one relationship for the love of another), thus providing which road to take when the two conflict.

What I see today is people who have made gods of their heroes and are incapable of having them critiqued or even taken out of a position of influence over their lives when they are in conflict with Christ and His teaching. The problem is that every human is flawed in both belief and practice, except for Christ. He is the only human who is perfect in what He teaches and does. He is the only one worthy of being exalted as a god because He is God. He is the God-man, who alone is worthy of all worship, honor, and praise. He alone deserves our undivided attention and respect. When our lesser heroes say something that would contradict Him, that's when we should be offended and critique our lesser heroes instead with His words.

I see the opposite happening, however, all the time. It seems that if you critique a particular pastor, who has now become a celebrity, and the individual has him as his hero, you will not be heard, even if you are speaking Christ's words into the situation. It doesn't matter who it is. The person can be orthodox in general or not. It may be Joel Osteen, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Paul Crouch, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur, etc. It doesn't matter. These are all men, humans with flaws in what they say and do, and to build your ideas and practices upon them is to build upon the sand. Only Christ is the rock. There is only one hero, and no other man shares that glory with Him.

Parents are another big source of hero-worship in our lives. They contribute to our lives more than any other, and as such, we are VERY offended when someone critiques them, especially if someone comes along and says that their whole framework of beliefs and practices are evil and need to be discarded. That is something we just cannot handle. But I would suggest that we see parents as the rest of humans. They do not know the right way to go. They do not know the right way to believe, not because God did not make it evident to them, but because like all humans, they have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. They are rebellious as we are rebellious. They are idolaters as we are idolaters. They are blind men as we are blind men, and as Christ warned us, a blind man who leads a blind man will end with both of them in a pit. We need to honor what our parents taught us in word and deed, but only insofar as they honored Christ in His teaching. If they dishonored Him by exalting their own ideas and practices to the point of ignoring what Christ would have us accept as true and practice, then they need to be critiqued by our sole Hero, and their teachings rejected.

I can't begin to tell you how many people do the exact opposite of this. I don't think many people even realize that this is what they have done. But it needs to stop, because hero-worship is making us unteachable. Trusting in humans is a trust in a broken reed. It will not stabilize you when the earth shakes. A house built on sand will not stand in the storm. We need to honor the teaching of others that comes to us in word and deed as much as that teaching honors Christ and His teaching, but be critical of ourselves by being critical of our heroes when it does not. We need to be bound to Him, and by doing so, love others by not allowing them lead themselves or others into pits. After all, a real hero is the one who can actually save you. There is only One who fits that job description.

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