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My heroes don’t wear shoulder pads July 20, 2009

Posted by Joe in Faith.

To many people, professional athletes have been elevated to a status beyond stardom, beyond even royalty. They’ve achieved the level of near demigods.  And many athletes in the limelight let that revelry go to their heads, walking around as if the normal rules of society don’t apply to them.

Steve McNair seemed like a great exception to the stereotypical it’s-all-about-me professional athlete. His selflessness on the field is near legendary. He sacrificed his body play after play for a few extra yards. He played when it was obvious to everyone in the stadium and on TV that he was in pain. Yet when the ball was snapped he went 110% and the pain wasn’t evident. As a result he inspired others to give their all and perhaps play even above their natural abilities.

But his contributions were not limited to on-the-field activities. More than once he renegotiated his contract to free up salary-cap money and allow other players to be signed to the team. Team mates and coaches speak of his leadership in the locker room. He was a team player, an all-star, and a natural leader all rolled into one.

His unassuming style of leadership, work ethic, natural abilities, and great smile made him a very likeable person. I liked Steve McNair.

That’s what made his untimely passing a few weeks ago very disturbing to many, including me.  Michael Hyatt summed it up well in his recent blog posting “One Stupid Decision Away“. I couldn’t say it better. I’m not going to repeat it here; just go to read it on his blog. You won’t regret it even if you’re not interested in sports.

I hope we can all learn lessons from what Steve McNair did right. But I also hope we can learn even more from the series of mistakes he made that led to a tragedy that affected so many others. And will for years to come.

Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t stand in judgment of Steve McNair. We all fall short. We all make mistakes. We are, after all, human. And people make mistakes.

My point is that it’s important to have a hero that doesn’t let you down, that doesn’t make bad decisions, that doesn’t potentially influence you to go down paths you’d be better off not traveling. And there’s only one that I know of that fits that description. He was a Jewish carpenter named Jesus.

As another professional athlete, Charles Barkley, once quipped, “I’m not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” As controversial as “Sir Charles” can be, I think he’s right on this point.

Who’s your hero?



1. Mike Walsh - July 20, 2009

Great blog. As I was reading your question about heroes my mind was heading towards that same Jewish carpenter.

I can think of plenty of examples of people who are less perfect and have made mistakes, gone down bad roads but still make good examples. I think of a pastor of mine who recently retired. Has he made mistakes in life? But of course but he gets back up, wipes the dust off and tries again. He gives any glory that may come his way towards Christ and accepts all blame/shame all on his own. He is in the Word daily, seems to always be in prayer and teaches out of his own humanity and mistakes so others might not make them. That is the kind of “hero” I would have to say comes close to being a hero.

Though yes, that still falls short of the glory of God robed in human flesh willing to give it all for those who were in the process of banging nails into his body and mocking him, spitting on him and beating him.

I sometimes look at Joshua and Joseph in the Old Testament as heroes. They were willing to persevere and do what was necessary. In Joshua’s case he was one of the few willing to go all the way and follow his orders. Even he had his moments of humanity but he was used in mighty ways. Joseph? He was treated so horribly by his brothers yet he used it for good in the end when he had the opportunity to meet them again when the tables could have easily been turned. He had full access to what was likely a beautiful woman. He could have obliged her requests for his “time” and no one would have been the wiser. Her husband trusted him completely, he wasn’t married. She was pressuring him to go forward. Even still he refused, he ran away and paid dearly for it. Yet while paying for it in jail he kept his focus on God and finding the good in the situation serving as a true servant in whichever situation he was thrown in.

As for most athletes, politicians and movie stars? Tough to find heroes as qualified as Joseph or Joshua, or even as qualified as David (who, in spite of great personal sin, served God with all of his heart. His example of repentance and a heart breaking reaction to his own sin, taking full responsibility is amazing in the Psalms). Certainly won’t ever find one as qualified as Christ.

Great post as always. Thanks for sharing this side of your heart. Your family, your faith and the importance of both.

2. Joe - July 20, 2009

Absolutely, Mike! The Bible is full of people who, though less than perfect, had a heart for God and lived their lives for Him.

Another one I’d add to your list is Caleb who, at the age of 85, asked for the “high country”, the most difficult land to take from the Anakim, as his inheritance.

3. Brian Kelley - July 20, 2009

As a husband and father, David used to be high on my list. But he has slipped quite a bit. There wasn’t just the issue with Bathsheba. There was the fact that he had so many women in the first place. Consider that in his last days his “handlers” went and found a pretty young thang for him, rather than one of his wives to care for him. Also consider that as a father, he did a terrible job. He wouldn’t take charge of his family. He’s not the first, mind you. Jacob was guilty of this. So was Samuel.

Christ is the only one who meets the measure of what people want from a hero. He was perfect, without a single flaw or misstep. He obviously is my hero. As for others, I look at them for qualities I’d love to emulate. And I respect them for that quality. I accept that they are human and they will disappoint me, because we are all sinners. Just as I don’t want anyone putting me on a pedestal because I will falter, I try my level best not to put them up on one, either.

Applying this standard, I can greatly respect David for where his heart was and for times when he had an unreal devotion and faith. I can respect an athlete like David Robinson for his pursuit of excellence while still maintaining sportsmanship and his selflessness when the Spurs drafted Duncan. I can look up to Max Lucado for his ability to inspire with words or for Ravi Zacharias for how he can distill an argument to its simplest form and get to the meat of it.

4. Beck - July 21, 2009

Each comment very well stated and thought provoking. A lot of points well made. Whenever we place our focus on any person, other than Christ, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Only He is perfect and worthy of our worship and praises.

5. Sheryl - July 23, 2009

Good posting, Joe. All true. And so true (on the other blog) about choices. A lot can change in a split second. But a lot of things are really the result of a SERIES of choices. Not many things “just happen” as we would like to think. I am a firm believer of that. To assuage the burden on our consciences we like to throw out a lot of “I don’t know”, and “next thing you know”. This only avoids the truth, which is harder to manage sometimes. A character on one of my favorite sitcoms said it best when she heard someone rationalizing: ” Mmm-hmm. Tell that to Jesus.” If you think about it, it’s really the fastest way to “get it”. What would we say to the person with whom the buck really stops, and who can see straight through us? We would not waste our time, or His, rationalizing. And I always remember a comment Laura made a few years ago. Not on the blog, but just to family. Paraphrased… we must actively guard what is sacred to us or risk losing it. That is true in so many instances.

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