A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. The chief male character in a book, play or film, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathise…(in mythology or folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semi-divine origin, in particular one whose exploits were the subject of Ancient Greek myths. – Oxford Dictionary
Comic book superheroes like Superman, Batman or Spiderman come to mind. There’s mythological Hercules and his labours; Jason and the Argonauts and their adventures; the warrior Achilles and his mortal heel. We know of historical Moses facing off against Pharaoh; David fighting Goliath; Samson slaughtering the Philistines; Daniel in the lions’ den for openly expressing his faith. Some of these heroes are burdened by their past, by an inherent physical or moral weakness, by doubt or hubris concerning their abilities or purpose, or by immaturity and lack of experience in other aspects of their lives. It’s interesting how many Greek and Roman gods have super powers and gifts but are all-too-human in terms of their foibles — truly capricious deities made in the image of man. Heroes of the Bible had their flaws too, but are recognised and remembered for their dependence on God when it counted. David was physically small, but his faith in God was big. What got Daniel into the den — prayer with God — was also what got him out.
US Corporal Desmond Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist and conscientious objector who refused to train with a rifle during World War II because he believed it was wrong to kill another human being. He was distrusted and abused for not being a team player — until as a medic he saved 75 wounded soldiers (including a couple of Japanese) at Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa, and deservedly received the Medal of Honor.
Closer to home there are Victoria Cross recipients like World War I-era Lance-Corporal Albert Jacka and Vietnam war veteran Warrant Officer Keith Payne, who distinguished themselves bravely and selflessly in combat. Jacka singlehandedly attacked and held an enemy trench at Gallipoli. Payne rescued wounded troops while being injured himself.
On a more intimate level, there may have been a relative or a friend, or perhaps even a stranger, who rescued you or someone you love from a burning house, a sinking ship or treacherous surf — that person becomes a very personal hero for life. Someone who donates a transplant organ, either during life or post-mortem, may also be considered a hero to the recipient. And then there are our sporting heroes — footballers, cricketers, tennis players, athletes — whom so many of our youth aspire to be like.
How about Jesus? Doesn’t He display the qualities we value in a true hero? He sacrificed Himself for mankind — for His spiritual enemies no less! He stood up for the truth, for the unfairly oppressed, for society’s weak and despised. He behaved faultlessly. His only documented act of justifiable violence was against the corrupt moneychangers who had desecrated the temple, His ‘Father’s house’. How was he weak? Only in His physical human form, so that he needed sleep and food. He was tempted — Satan appealed to physical need, power and pride of life — but Jesus did not yield.
Regardless of how great human effort has been or may yet be in the hero stakes, no one will ever surpass the redemptive triumph and infinite love of our Saviour, Lord and Eternal Hero.
Editorial by Andrew Chan