Everyone has their heroes. You admire your heroes for their ability to overcome, to remain consistent, humble, strong, creative or whatever quality you most value. You look to them with wonder and admiration. How do they do what they do? And do it so well?
In many cases we try to emulate them. We watch them and follow. Whether it be a little boy playing with his daddies’ tools in the garage or a musician picking out the chords and imitating the mannerisms of her favorite pop artist. Having heroes can be a great thing. It can also lead to our complete downfall.
The Pedestal Complex
In many relationships, one party will make a hero of the other. When the hero shows a weakness, the admirer will ignore it. They refuse to admit their hero could be vulnerable. Often, the weakness becomes a pattern and the admirer becomes an apologist for the hero’s failures. In other cases, heroes may overcome their weaknesses and continue to live praise-worthy lives. Much to the delight of his or her admirers.
Regardless the outcome of a heroes life, there are pitfalls to admiration you and I need to be aware of. We need to keep our heroes in their place.
How Heroes Hurt You
I was very fortunate in my early Christian walk. I was surrounded by fellow believers and teachers who warned me about heroes. On several occasions they taught me, in so many words, ‘never put your trust in a man (or woman), they will always fail you’.
These friends and teachers were not trying to be overly cynical nor harsh concerning our fellow humans. They were recognizing something very important.
And here it is: Our expectations of another human are often skewed and unrealistic. Placing too much hope in the behavior and response of another person can lead to horrible disappointment and resentment. Don’t do it.
Not to be overly negative, they would hasten to add that one hero could always be trusted. They would say something like, ‘Make Jesus your hero and let the Bible set your expectations of Him.’ I determined to the best of my ability to do just that.
The Let Down
This teaching was reinforced to me early in my Christian walk when several of my fellow believers did exactly what I was warned about, they let me down. One brother I looked up to flew into a cursing rage over a video game while I was watching. Another older Bible college friend I admired got his girlfriend pregnant. There were others close to me and many not so close but much more well known.
I can name far too many prominent Bible believing and teaching personalities that have disappointed the Christian community in the last few decades by their actions, betrayals, and abuses. The most recent announcements by Joshua Harris concerning his failed marriage and his regrets concerning the LGBTQ+ community got my attention and prompted me to write this reminder.
What the Bible Tells Us About Heroes
Given the weakness and sinful dispositions of every one of us, we must continue to remind ourselves and our Christian brothers and sisters that hero status is reserved ONLY for Jesus! He is the one who will never fail, never falter, and never give up. Not only do we need to remind others but we need to be diligent to ‘set our affection on things above and not on things on the earth’ (Colossians 3:2)
The book of Hebrews reminds us to ‘look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith’ and to trust in Him when we grow weary and are tempted. (Hebrews 12:1-3) No one else can claim to be the author and finisher (perfecter) of our faith. He is the one who will keep us, guard us, grow us, and ultimately present us without fault like He promised in Jude 24-25 which says,
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
The Only One Worth of Hero Status
Those are categorically exclusive verses. ONLY Jesus gets hero status in the Bible. (See also Revelation 4:11, 5:9, 13, and 7:12) None else. Every other personality (save our Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit) is shown to be tainted, weak, vulnerable, and ultimately in need of forgiveness and salvation. We cannot make them our heroes.
One person that lived a consistent, faithful life, and blessed many with her godly character and great teaching was Elisabeth Elliott. When speaking of her own frailties and failures, she put it this way in a radio talk I heard many years ago, ‘Please pray that God will make me everything you think I am.’ What a great way to recognize how people looked up to her and set them straight about who they should really be looking up to.
Let’s encourage one another to stop looking horizontally at heroes who will fall and be forgotten. Let’s look to the one true hero who rose and is remember by all the world. Only Jesus is worthy of our ultimate admiration and only He will give us complete satisfaction. Know his promises and set you expectations according to them. Then remind your fellow believers to do the same! Many blessings to you as you follow Jesus.
The hero complex can create a lot of conflict in the church. You expect Christians to be free of sin or to act a certain way. If you’re looking for more help to dissolve conflict between fellow Christians, check out my book focused solely on helping Christians talk and better connect: When Christians Disagree.