How to Be a Hero
I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. Romans 2:13
If I’m honest, I’d have to admit that while working in the Emergency Room, I enjoyed the status that came with being a provider involved in life and death situations. Not every day involved the dramatic – there were many mundane days. But still, as an ER physician, it was not uncommon to get to feel like the hero. Who wouldn’t like that? As I slipped deeper into my addiction though, that heroic aspect of the job became more important because my addiction made me feel so worthless. If I could just keep up the facade of being the good guy, then at least others would think highly of me, even if I hated myself.
Eventually though, my dark secret was dragged into the light. Then, it simply didn’t matter how much good I’d done. The week my life fell apart, I had one of those save-a-child moments, but it just didn’t count for anything beyond that child’s family. I thought that doing enough good would cement my heroic status in everyone’s mind, but I didn’t realize that heroes aren’t made only in the big life-and-death decisions. Heroism is born of character – how I act every day when no one is watching.
In today’s passage, Jesus addressed the heroes in the church of Pergamum. These Christians lived in the heart of an idol and emperor worshipping Roman empire. With shrines and temples, the entire culture worshipped everything but Christ. Amid that, these bold Christians stood their ground, refusing to bow to false gods – and they paid for it. One of them, Antipas, is named here as being killed for his faith.
When I hear stories of Christians heroically standing up to the face of persecution and opposition, I’d like to think that I’d do the same. I’m afraid though, that my desire to be the hero is simply an extension of my pride. I don’t want to be persecuted for Christ. I just want to be seen as heroic. Would my blatant pride and self-interest hold up against life-threatening persecution? I doubt it.
I don’t know much about the Christians in Pergamum, but I’d wager they didn’t just one day decide to stand up to the Roman empire, becoming heroes and martyrs. Rather, I’d bet, they lived their daily lives in service to Christ, building a life around following him. They weren’t perfect, as we’ll see in tomorrow’s passage, but they followed Christ daily. And that is how they became heroes.