For most movies, the protagonist or main character is also the hero, the person you are meant to identify with and want to emulate. Why is that?
Well, you naturally feel sympathy toward the person at the center of the story. It’s very difficult to constantly see the world through one person’s eyes and not view their perspective as right or at least defensible.
This creates a perpetual temptation for the Christian. Inescapably, we see life through our own eyes. We are the protagonists of our story and we naturally want to make ourselves the hero as well.
When you read a Bible passage, with whom do you initially identify?
Seeing Ourselves as Heroes
Studying for a recent Gospel Project lesson on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the guide asked you to do something I’d never done before: identify with the idolatrous king Nebuchadnezzar—not in a “he was actually misunderstood” kind of way, but in a “his pride got in his way and so does your pride” kind of way.
When you read the story of the three brave young men standing up for their faith in the midst of enormous pressure, more than likely, you place yourself in their shoes. How would I respond? How can I learn from their example? You don’t see yourself as the prideful tyrant forcing others to bow to your wishes.
With that in my mind, I began studying a Explore the Bible lesson on Judges. It’s easy to read the book of Judges and see yourself as one of the judges God raises up to bring the people back from the idolatry. But I had to think, how often am I like the Israelites—tossed and driven by the winds of popular culture?
We want to read the stories of the Bible and see ourselves as the heroes of the faith, the brave ones standing up in the face of persecution. But more often than not, we are the cowardly ones caving to temptation.
Recognizing Ourselves as Villains
We read the stories and ask, “How could the Israelites possibly abandon God to worship the idols of their surrounding culture?” But we never consider how much our own individualistic, consumeristic culture pulls us away from God.
We critique the legalism of the Pharisees and wonder how anyone could want to challenge Jesus the way they did, yet we frequently reject grace and use the law (or our own expansion of it) to hammer others or ourselves.
We lament the people who stopped following Jesus because they found His teaching on morality and sexual ethics too difficult. But then we seek our own escape from the force of His spoken words and the other written words of God in Scripture.
If we are honest we are ourselves, we can easily find ourselves in the pages of the Bible—just not among the heroes.
We are the failures, the rejects, the idolaters, the sinful, the prideful, the villains. But that’s the most wonderful part. God hasn’t called us to be the hero, only to follow the One who actually is.
Seeing the True Hero
Christ is the true hero and even the real protagonist. He’s the One on which all of history turns. He’s the One to which all of Scripture points.
And in His being the hero, He has laid down his life for us. Even though we didn’t deserve. Even while we were sinners. Even with us being the villain to His Hero.
The gospel frees us to read God’s word—not anxiously searching for how our life matches the hero of the passage, but thankful that even though you don’t measure up to a heroic standard God loves you regardless and has sent His Son to redeem you anyway.
The good news of the gospel is that you aren’t the hero of the story and you don’t have to be.