What is a hero? Is one born or built? Brain or brawn? We could talk about this for years and still have more to say.
[When I refer to hero/heroes in this post, this includes men and women, heroes and heroines. For simplicity’s sake I will stick with male pronouns.]
It’s no secret that I have a passion for superheroes. Not the dark, brooding hero who is angry, full of hate, and kills without mercy but I love the heroes who stand for truth, justice, mercy, hope, love, and all that is good. I don’t believe that you need to have special or super powers to be a hero (that’s simply a nice bonus which tends to make a story a little more fantastic). I’ve heard it said that the comic book superhero is the modern equivalent to ancient myth. Stories referring to people much like ourselves who could do miraculous things, though some heroes and some villains. These are echoes of a story that lives within the spirit of Man.
So, what makes a hero? Is it his strength of arms, his intelligence, his bravery, valor, fighting spirit? All of these? One of these? All different combinations of these things? Must you be someone great? What is at the heart of a hero?
For the answers, we have to look to the Ultimate Hero, the One who gave it all. Jesus of Nazareth, the Word Made flesh. And what was His ultimate mark? He said it Himself, Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”. This God-Man, the one with all the power, all the knowledge, came to serve us in ways we could never have imagined we needed Him. This is what makes a hero, he serves, even when it hurts, even when he is hated, feared, abused, unto his own death, he serves others.
The greatest heroes are the ones who serve others and protect their fellow man. They believe themselves gifted with the purpose of making the world a better place, standing up for what is right. Thinking of others more than they think of themselves. Think about the greatest heroes you’ve ever seen and you’ll witness someone who served others well.
So, what does it mean “to serve” (to be useful or of service to; help.)? Does it mean I have to do what others want all the time? Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that kids want stuff that’s bad for them all the time but that doesn’t mean you give it to them. No, that’s not serving well. Heroes are not driven by the command of the people that they serve. They are commanded by what is right, what is good, because in the end, this is what’s best for us, and the greater good. Not doing what we like, not doing what we want, not gravitating towards what is comfortable- but what is right.
How do you best serve others? How do you do the right thing; help others do the right thing? Do you let people get away with everything? Absolutely not. Sometimes the greatest act of loving service you can give someone is giving him or her a swift kick to the behind (metaphorically [maybe sometimes physically]). Let’s say you have a friend who treats you like crap, you don’t sit there and say, “Well I want to serve them well so I should just take the abuse”. Heck no! You tell him that you won’t be treated like that and if he wants you or anyone to stick around he better get his act together. This helps him understand that his behavior is wrong and he shouldn’t treat you or anyone else like that. Probably not a good idea to do it in a public place to embarrass him but you talk openly and honestly, you say your piece, and you hope there is a change. If not, you put up the boundary with him that you hang out until he gets hateful then you’re right out the door. You put up your boundaries and if you can still have a relationship with him then great, if not then you hope they change because you leave. The central matter here is that you try to do what’s best for the person, you serve them.
Did you know that most kids want their parents to discipline them in some way? Now, there are a wide variety of disciplines (spanking, chores, grounded, aloe plant juice on the tongue [it is utterly disgusting tasting, but good for you]) and discipline should be understood in the correct context.
Discipline comes from the word disciple meaning a pupil or student. Discipline is always used to teach, in this case, to teach what is right and wrong, and when you forget that it is to teach, it simply becomes punishment and nothing more. When you are teaching, you are serving.
Serving people does not mean doing what the other person wants, that’s simply catering to desires, enabling them. It’s doing what they need, not what they want, which inevitably leads to conflict.
But take heart, Hero. He gave it all so you could too. Life isn’t meant to be lived fearing the shadow, but to shine a light, fight back the darkness and bring the sun. It’s happening all around us folks, time you put your cape on and be a hero.