catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 18 :: 2005.10.07 — 2005.10.20


Jesus Christ, hero

The word ?hero? summons many images that will differ widely from person to person. I tend to react negatively to the word, as its overuse has nearly rendered it meaningless in contemporary society. Public school teachers are referred to as heroes. Any firefighter, regardless of the degree to which his or her life has ever been in danger, can be revered as a hero. Heroes are even judged by the degree to which the ?heroic? act departs from their natural inclinations, as in the alcoholic who heroically stays sober for a full month.

This is not to say that any of these people or acts are not laudable?anyone who?s experienced an addiction first or second hand knows how tremendous the feat of sobriety can be. However, another definition of hero is not quite so muddied by our longing for irreproachable goodness, and that is the hero (or heroine) as the main character of a story.

The definition is simple and straightforward in some cases. For example, few people would question that Dorothy serves as the heroine of the Wizard of Oz story. But, as the musical Wicked is showing the world, the same story can be told from many angles, including that of the antagonist, and the angle is usually determined by the creator of the story.

Taking this all to a more metaphorical level, we are the creators of our own life stories every day and we make choices about who the hero or heroine of those stories will be. At our most uncritical (which for me is too much of the time), the hero/ine is the self. When that is the case, a desire to make things turn out a certain way for ourselves drives our choices. We become manipulative of situations and of people because the vision for our own happy ending takes precedence over other visions.

Even those of us who would claim Jesus Christ as the hero of our stories fall prey to this tendency, usually when we fail to recognize exactly who Christ is. But Jesus tells us, appropriately through story, who he is:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ?Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.? Then the righteous will answer him, ?Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?? And the king will answer them, ?Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.? (Matthew 25:34-40)

Here, the king is the hero of the story, but the king is intentional in identifying himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.

If we hold this nature of Christ to be true, it has practical implications for the way in which we shape our life stories. We make Jesus the hero of the life story when we make the ?least? of the world?s people the heroes of our everyday stories. One inescapable fact of life in 2005 and beyond is that our stories intertwine with the stories of thousands of people around the world each day. When I make my breakfast, I boil oats that were planted, harvested and processed by others. I drink juice from oranges that were picked and transported by people. I cook with metal utensils and pans that involved human beings in the processes of mining, manufacturing and sales. More often than not, the people involved in these processes fit the one or more of the categories the king lays out in the parable.

While the grace of God is my comfort when I inevitably fail, it is no excuse for neglecting to be actively attentive when I have the capacity and knowledge to do. Hopefully, my journey of life is a story that has no end, with Christ as he is embodied in others as the hero of the tale. There will be signs along the way bearing terms such as fair trade, local economy, organically grown?these are part of the larger story of the Kingdom of God in which I seek to be a supporting character.

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