I have been reading Eric Greitens book, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life. Greitens, a Navy SEAL (no longer in the military, but I'm pretty sure you never stop being a SEAL), writes to a former colleague who is on the verge of destroying his life and marriage due to post-traumatic stress from his experiences in war. The book is a series of letters from Greitens, responding to his friend and encouraging him to face his challenges, get the right kind of help, and make decisions that lead toward healing.
In the chapter on role-models, Greitens talks about our human tendency to view our heroes as flawless. Of course, we aren't flawless. We are flawed and broken, even if no one else knows. So we resist the efforts to make a change in life, or to do something heroic. Because, after all, we could never do what our heroes have done. We aren't like them.
I see the same predisposition in the ways in which people encounter the Bible. The biblical heroes seem larger than life. Why would we ever be able to do a great thing for God, when we are so much...smaller?
I'm perplexed at this form of interpretation, because the characters in the story are so obviously imperfect. Perhaps we've lived in fear of the judgment of others. Perhaps we've withered away under what seem like the unyielding demands of a legalistic church. Perhaps we just can't find ourselves in the stories. Whatever the reasons, we see great steps of faith as the kind of things that happen to others, never to us. We're paralyzed, obsessing over what is broken, and denying what is divinely created.
The truth is that not a single great thing done by the people in the Bible was ever done by someone without flaws. This may seem controversial, but that includes Jesus. To proclaim his full divinity should never come at the expense of denying his full humanity. He went to the cross with human uncertainty, with prayers to be delivered, and with cries of despair at the absence of God.
In Resilience, Greitens has these words of exhortation for his broken friend:
If we believe that our heroes are flawless, we begin to believe that we, being flawed, are incapable of heroism. In this way, a belief in the perfection of others can inhibit our growth. Adult heroism is different. The adult knows that all heroic lives are, in a sense, a heroic struggle to overcome our own limitations.
Flawed heroes are still heroic. Every Achilles has an Achilles' heel. Your hero is flawed. So are you. Congratulations, you have that in common. Now, make yourself similar in another way: go be heroic.
What great words for the Church. We're broken and sinful. We're loved and forgiven. We have a great God, able to do great things with broken lives. We have a calling to discover, and a mission to fulfill. The mission doesn't require perfect people. The mission requires us. Let's go do something heroic for Jesus in our community, in our lives, and in our relationships!