One of my good friends had an uncle who fought in WWII. But he vehemently refused the title of hero when someone attempted to label him as such. His curt response? “The ones who didn’t come home — they were the true heroes.”
In the news last week, I heard the story of a man who was labeled a hero twice over. The first time happened when he stopped to help someone with car trouble on the side of the road. He was hit and killed in the process by another vehicle. The second time happened when his heart was donated to a young boy who desperately needed a new one.
In our modern day parlance, we associate the word hero with those who make sacrifices so that others can live and flourish. Often that sacrifice is the most precious gift of all — someone’s life. There is something about the heroic that immediately grabs our hearts. It transcends all religious, racial, and cultural categories. We are incurably fascinated with the heroic. And well we should be. It is the foundation of all that is true and right and good and noble.
Today is Memorial Day, a time set aside to honor those who gave their lives to preserve the freedoms of this country. Whatever our political views or disagreements, it is a good thing to remember the cost that others paid in blood, sweat, and tears. I have never served in the military, but I am still awed by the sight of a veterans cemetery — the hundreds and thousands of tombstones, the vast landscape of mowed grass, the perpetual greenery and flowers, and the countless stories of heroic ventures that lie buried here.
“Greater love has no one than this – that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This quote from Jesus is often engraved in stone at such cemeteries or heralded in Memorial Day speeches. And well it should be. The greatest love is by definition heroic. But it is also a good thing to remember that it is Jesus who spoke these words and that He paid that cost with His own blood, sweat, and tears. He laid down his life for His friends. And anyone who follows Him is by definition His friend.
When a man comes to terms with Jesus, these words can evoke awe — the wonder of being called Jesus’ friend, the felt experience of inner freedom, and the surprise that His death was given with you in mind. It is the awe of being the recipient of a heroic act.
One last note: Men who follow Jesus are put into training by Him. He means to have them become like Him, even heroic like Him. That’s the whole point of His coming.
It’s to be the whole point of our lives.
To experience more of the heroic, here are a few suggestions:
- Find a local veterans cemetery and plan a visit. You may be surprised at how much it moves you.
- Ask a few of your close friends about their own personal heroes. The stories will inspire you.
- Find a biography about war heroes and read their stories.
- Pick up a copy of Heroic: The Surprising Path to True Manhood. Find out what’s so surprising about this path.
Happy Memorial Day!