Who are your heroes? Who are the individuals you admire whom you want to be like? We all have those we look up to, but it is interesting that who these people are reveals quite a bit about what we ourselves value and, ultimately, who we are.
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
I have a confession to make. When I was a young woman one of my heroes was a fictional movie character–an attorney who was not only professional, but also feminine and attractive. I admired her because at the time, those were the qualities I appreciated and how I myself wanted to be. These days, I value people for different reasons.
The people I now look up to are those who have overcome the pull of this world–those who have denied themselves and taken up their cross and followed Jesus. I think of people like Mother Theresa or Pastor Lee Jong-rak, the South Korean pastor who installed a drop box for unwanted babies (usually with physical or mental problems) whom he and his wife subsequently raise, even though they are now getting on in years themselves. I think of Moses–whom we remember as the man God used to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt–who, the New Testsment book of Hebrews tells us, “…when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:24-25) I think of the many less famous individuals who live at a lower standard of living than they could because they are supporting various ministries or are themselves working at poorly paid ministerial work for the sake of Christ. On the negative side, I also think of Demas, of whom Paul said that he “…has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (2 Timothy 4:10)
Each of us has a choice to make. We need to decide if we will love and pursue this world and all it has to offer, or if we will choose Jesus instead:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
We also need to consider what God says about loving this world:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Far be it from me to judge the motives of other peoples’ hearts–I have enough difficulty figuring out my own–but I really wonder if many of us understand Christianity aright. I, like so many others today, feel the pull of this world. I see its glitter and promise, and feel its attempts to seduce my heart. I hear the arguments–and sometimes make them myself–that I can participate in it, so long as I do not actually sin. And I almost believe it, to a certain extent. But then I stumble across verses like Jesus’ “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me,” or John’s “Do not love the world or anything that is in the world,” and I’m not so sure anymore.
I suspect that the problem is that part of us wants to have our cake and eat it too–we want the world and Jesus–but this cannot be. We cannot love God and the world. Jesus tried to explain this when He said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 5:24) Many consider the archaic word mammon synonymous with money, but it actually conveys the idea of covetousness–of desiring the things of this world. Taken in that context, we can begin to understand that our desires cannot be fractured in two opposing directions–in our heart of hearts, we cannot long for both the things of this world and Jesus. We will ultimately pursue one or the other. And what we admire reveals what is in our heart.
So, who are your heroes? What qualities do they exhibit; what lifestyle do they model? Are they running after the things of this world? Or have they chosen Christ? Remember that our heroes reflect what we ourselves believe in. May we admire those who value what is truly valuable!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me choose You! Amen.