No more heroes? (with thanks to J John)

It’s been a difficult time for heroes. First, we had the revelations about Jimmy Savile, the eccentric television personality accused by many of being a longstanding predatory paedophile. Then, a report on seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong suggested that his famous victories were made possible by use of performance-enhancing drugs. In both cases, disgrace was total and sudden, the plummet from acclaim to shame breathtaking. 

One cannot equate cheating at sport with sexual abuse, but there are similarities: these men were ‘headline heroes’ – household names who had sought fame and publicity to boost their image. In neither case does their wrongdoing seem to have brought happiness. Savile may have been respected, but only from a distance; it seems those close to him found him cold and emotionless and few, if any, found him lovable. Armstrong allegedly appears to have been capable of forcing teammates into cheating.

How ought we to react to the exposure of these men who once enjoyed the limelight? One response is to be cynical of all such ‘celebrities’ and assume that everyone has a dark side – that beneath every gleaming public face lies an ego with a shadow side. However, despite its persistent recognition of the failings of human beings, the Bible commends many people to us as heroes. The Old Testament clearly portrays Moses, David and Elijah as such and the New Testament is also full of men and women whom we should look up to. They all made huge mistakes, but God forgave and chose to use them in great ways. Is anyone truly beyond redemption?

The revelations about Savile and Armstrong have been painful and saddening, yet the damage done by these men will be multiplied if we lose all thought of idealism and heroism. You can teach morality all you want but in truth it’s always best taught by example; that’s why we talk about role models.  Yes, we human beings are imperfect but the exposure of these two ‘headline heroes’ as desperately flawed individuals should not deter us from


looking up to other men and women of faith and of achievement and trying to follow in their footsteps.

Nor should it make us forget our own flaws. The dividing line between good and evil runs down the middle of each and every one of us. Realising this is the beginning of wisdom and lies at the heart of the gospel of Jesus. Let’s not forget our own need for forgiveness and our own need to seek God’s strength daily so we can live in a way which honours him and our fellow human beings. There but for the Grace of God could go both you and I.

With love in Christ, Nick