Never Meet Your Heroes
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
I recently met someone who’d heard of me before we met. When I introduced myself, he asked If I was that one doctor who’d recovered from an addiction and wrote a book about it. Flattered, I told him that was indeed me. He seemed dubious. He said he had my book and that he enjoyed it. With some obvious disappointment in his voice though, he blurted out, “I thought you’d be taller!”
He’d read my book. He’d apparently had some admiration of me. Then, in his mind, he made me into what he wanted me to be – some larger-than-life hero. When he met me, discovering I was just a short, stocky, average looking guy, he felt let down. I’d not yet done anything to fail him, but still, I’d not lived up to his expectations. My ego deflated a bit.
We often do this. We look up to our spiritual leaders, favorite Christian musicians, and pastors, and we want to make superstars out of them. We gravitate towards those, not necessarily with the greatest faith and character, but towards those with the most charisma. We live in a celebrity culture, which for whatever reason, puts beautiful people on a pedestal to idolize and worship. As Christians, we’re not immune to this. We want our own celebrities. Then, when we find out they’re human with real flaws and failures, we’re shocked and hurt.
In today’s passage, the author of Hebrews provided the proper way to choose whom to follow. He instructed us to look at our leaders lives and see if they’re worth following. Do they live by faith? If they do, we’re to imitate them. He didn’t say we should follow the charming, but rather the Christlike. He didn’t say to worship our leaders or make celebrities of them. He just said we must follow those whose behavior reveals that they live by faith. If they fall, it shouldn’t wreck our faith because they’re not gods or heroes. They’re simply human and as such, they’re imperfect like us. Yes, they may have to step down from a leadership position, but we shouldn’t place an entire organization on one individual’s back and an entire organization shouldn’t fall if they do.
We can and should look up to those who live by faith. We should learn from them and imitate their behavior. We should, however, resist our natural tendency to create a cult of personality, hero-worshipping those we find attractive. Our role models should be those who follow Christ, not just those who look good on Sunday.