“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11: 1-2
Who are your heroes? Studies show that America’s youth struggle to cite personal heroes in their lives. This is quite a change from the youth of previous generations who listed presidents, generals, sports legends, and great thinkers as their heroes. I can still remember my childhood experience of looking at a large picture of Custer’s Last Stand in Eggemeyer’s Tavern in Chester, Illinois. (My dad was the town preacher, but occasionally, I would sneak into the tavern with my friend, Janet, and she would get money for candy from her dad who always sat at the same bar stool.) Custer stood in the middle of the battle between the Native Americans and his cavalry. Custer stood firm, and his sword was lifted high. Custer was a hero. Following the Vietnam Era, Custer fell from that cultural persona of greatness, and his new persona became that of a fool.
Heroes rise and heroes fall. Perhaps, this is not a surprise considering our American culture today. The media saturates our youth with stories about the out of control exploits and indiscretions of Lindsay Lohan, Lance Armstrong, Prince Harry, and more. Our youth could certainly use positive role models in their lives.
Actually, the need for heroes is nothing new. All cultures recognize heroes and role models, and the Jewish culture during the growth of the early church was no different. In Hebrews 11, Jewish heroes and their journeys of faith are reviewed. This list of heroes includes Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab. These were not perfect people, but their faith in God and His unending love and support made them heroes. For instance, Abraham stretched the truth out of fear and proclaimed that Sarah was his sister instead of his wife when Abimelech confronted him. Isaac sank into a life of inaction and stagnation instead of exercising positive leadership within his family. Moses vacillated between “flight and fight” when the going got tough. He certainly appeared to have some anger issues. Rahab’s lifestyle was clearly unacceptable. Yet, all of these heroes of faith followed God in spite of their personal weaknesses.
In an age when a sports legend like Charles Barkley announces that he is not a role model to remove himself from any social obligation or responsibility toward America’s youth, the role of the DCE, teacher, and youth volunteer becomes even more important in the lives of youth. Those who work with youth are obligated to be role models, and what’s even more intimidating is that they just might be heroes for the youth that they lead. This is a serious obligation. However, just as the heroes listed in Hebrews had their faults and weaknesses, they still had their faith. They did not walk alone. God was with them.