It is no exaggeration that most people can easily identify Kim Kardashian over the vice president of the United States . The people that we most often look up to and want to be like tend to be either celebrities or athletes. Why have we fallen so hard for the celebrity? Zack Eswine sums up our longing like this, “everyone wants to do large things famous and fast. But most things that truly matter need small acts of overlooked love over a long period of time.” If we become like who we look up to, and we look up to celebrities, we will fall victim to the constant pursuit of the large, famous, and fast brought on by the celebrity culture. In troubled times like these, we don’t need more celebrities. We need heroes.
The following are three heroes in my life that will hopefully spur you on to “remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).
Rosa Parks – courage over celebrity
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.”
Rosa Parks probably wouldn’t grace the latest cover of People Magazine, but she has drastically impacted the legacy of our country in far more important ways. Deemed the “Mother of the Civil Rights movement” her actions of quite courage rub against our loud celebrity world. Courage for her wasn’t flashy actions you see today, but the quite strength to do the right thing over the easy thing. We need people who will choose freedom over comfort. We need people who will sit, when asked to stand. We need more Mrs. Parks.
Coach John Wooden – compassion over celebrity
"What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player."
Most people are admired today for their beauty, talent, or accumulation of wealth. In the words of columnist David Brooks we have exchanged “eulogy virtues” for “resume virtues”, the internal for the external, character for talent.
John Wooden, long-time coach of UCLA basketball, wouldn’t buy into that line of thinking. The legend goes that Wooden would start each basketball season teaching his superstar athletes how to put on their socks and tie their shoes. Wooden was convinced that if the little things were done right, the big things would follow. He used basketball as a tool to love and develop people over a lifetime. This pattern followed into all parts of his life, none more extraordinary than his marriage to his dear wife Nell. Nell tragically passed away on the twenty-first of March in 1985. For 25 years, until Coach Wooden died in 2010, he wrote her a love letter on the 21st of each month, three hundred letters in total . We need people who will love others, instead of use them. We need people who will commit to the ordinary over a lifetime. We need more Coach Woodens.
Jim & Elisabeth Elliot – commissioned over celebrity
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Elisabeth & Jim Elliott lived their life sent. Instead of the comfort of this life, they chose to suffer for the next one by giving their life to the Aucan tribes of Ecuador, a fierce group of people whom no one had been able to share Jesus with without being killed. Jim and four others were able to build friendships with three of the tribal members, but were tragically speared to death later. His wife Elisabeth was left alone with her 10 month old daughter, but continued to live among and minister to the tribe in Ecuador. She eventually went as missionary to serve the tribe that killed her husband and finished the job he started. We need people that live commissioned with a mission and purpose through life. We need people who will give their life away for the sake of others. We need more Mr. and Mrs. Elliots.
What do all these heroes in my life have in common? I don’t think they thought they were heroes. They were just ordinary men and women who rather than choosing the easy thing chose the right thing that God had called them to do. They were courageous, compassionate, and commissioned.
If we become like who we admire, are we playing the part of the celebrity or the hero? Have we bought in to the lie of the large, famous, and fast or will we commit to the ordinary life of courage, compassion, and commission. In the words of Michael Horton, “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to do the dishes.”
The world has enough celebrities. Let us be men and women who have heroes and pray that we would one day be heroes to others.
If you want to learn more about heroic men and women throughout history, here is a good place to start: