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            On my bookcase, in my office, is one of my favorite pictures (funny how we put our favorite pictures in our favorite places, so everyone can see them.) It is 15 years old and has travelled to three different states and been in at least four offices. It was from one of the top ten days of my life. It is a picture of me in a cap and gown receiving my diploma from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It proves that I do have moments of academic intelligence. I worked hard for that diploma, and I am very proud of it. The three years it took to get that degree were three great years (I met Jennifer and married her during that time.)

            As I look at that picture, I am also sad. I am not alone in the picture. The president of the seminary is handing me the diploma. The man was one of my theological and spiritual heroes. He was one of the main reasons that I went there. In fact, the first time that I ever visited Wake Forest, NC, I got lost and turned around in a driveway. The driveway belonged to him. He introduced himself, and showed me where I needed to go. He was very gracious to me, and seemed glad that I was coming to the seminary. I doubt he would remember that, or remember me at all. He was a man that fought many hard battles, at a great cost to himself, to help keep his denomination away from liberalism that was threatening to undermine the Bible, and the church. To many people like myself, he really was a hero.

            I am sad because recently that man fell. Through pride, power, and several really bad decisions, he lost a prestigious position. He will probably never have another prominent position again. His failures were his. No one made him do what he did, and many people tried to warn him, but he did not listen or change. So, on my bookcase is a picture of me with a fallen hero. Sadly, he is not the first one of my heroes to fall. Each one has stunk, and stung me.

            What are we to do when our heroes topple? What are we to do when one of our heroes is a spiritual leader that falls? How do we handle this? In situations like this, I think about King David and his sin with Bathsheba. Here was a man “after God’s own heart” who not only committed adultery (at the least), and then covered it up with murder. A great man had truly fallen. He thought he got away with it, until the prophet confronted him. David then repented of his sin, and went about trying to fix his mistake. God forgave him, but what about the people that were hurt by his actions? How did they, and how do we handle this?

            There are a few ways for us to handle it. First, we must start with prayer. We must pray for the hero who fell. Pray that he or she will repent, and then work to be restored and to restore those who were hurt. Second, we must constantly be watching to make sure that we are not turning our heroes into idols. Every single human alive has the terrible tendency to sin. If we start to worship them, we will always end up hurt. No person is meant to be a god to us. When we make them one, we will end up with a broken god. Heroes are fine. We all need people to look up to and emulate. Making them idols is not fine. Third, we must not ask too much out of our heroes. We should not worship them, nor should we expect them to be something that they cannot be. They are just as fallible as we are. When we put them on pedestals that they do not deserve or ask to be put on, we are only making it a matter of time before they fall off it. Fourth, we should pray for them. Pray before the fall comes. Pray that they will not fall. Pray that they will have the strength to not make the same bad decisions that others have made. Finally, we need to make sure that the person we have as a hero is worthy of being one. Just because they can do something really well does not mean that they should become heroes. Sometimes these people are jerks. They are bound to stumble (something about pride and a fall.) We need to make sure our heroes are worthy of it.

            As I look at that picture, part of me wants to remove it. My hero’s poor decisions have caused many people to look bad. His actions are not defendable. It hurts to say that, and for him to take up valuable real estate in my office (I’m sure I can squeeze another picture of my family in that place) is a bit disconcerting. With that said, I have decided the picture will stay. It will stay because it shows one of the best days of my life and I will not let his mistakes tarnish that. It will also stay to remind me that heroes have clay feet, and sometimes the cracks in those feet show up when you least expect it. I will use it to hopefully protect myself. I will try to be courageous in what I believe in as he was, but I will also not let pride and power drive me. I will learn from him, again.

MJ

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