July 5, 1994
The man with a gun to his head led over a dozen police cars along the Los Angeles freeway system. Live television cameras unfolded this emotion-charged drama right in our living rooms.
For the most part, the crowds along the highway seemed concerned that football star, O. J. Simpson, did not pull the trigger. To them, he was a hero, an exalted champion. Heroes do not kill themselves. They shouted words of support from opposite driving lanes. In the tension of the situation, people forgot he was a suspect who may have already killed two other people.
Within a couple of weeks, O. J. appeared more and more involved in the brutal deaths of his ex-wife and another person. Even so, some regard him as still a hero. He shone so brightly on the playing field, nothing can tarnish him in their eyes. “He must have been framed,” they say. They are loyal, no matter what their hero may have done.
Psychologists say we need heroes. We want someone bigger than we are to look up to, even to be our model, someone to pattern our lives after. For many, prominent athletes like O. J. Simpson fill that need. His die-hard fans indicate some will defend a hero, yet others quickly turn away in disgust at the first sign of mortal flaw.
What would happen if the hero were perfect? Would that guarantee complete and total loyalty? Would all become fans and none ever turn away disgruntled or disillusioned?
It seems logical to suppose a perfect hero would guarantee total commitment. Consider the Carpenter from Nazareth, Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “He was in all points tempted like we are, yet He was without sin.”
Here is a perfect person, according to God, He did no wrong. He was flawless, the ideal hero. But what does that mean?
Consider His power: He went against all challenges and conquered them. Violent weather, demonic forces, sickness, blindness, even death, was no match for this hero. However, sinlessness has nothing to do with power.
Consider His love and gentleness. Jesus never hurt anyone. He forgave the repentant, wept over the indifferent, warned those with hard hearts, and loved everyone to the point that He willingly died on the Cross to pay their penalty for their sins. This is closer to what sinless means, yet His actions of love are more a symptom than a definition.
Consider His virtue. He is described as being “full of grace and truth”, one who “went about doing good”, “the true light,” “the Bread of life,” and “the way, the truth, and the life.” Sinlessness is virtue, goodness in the heart. It is never disobeying God because there is absolutely nothing inside that is evil.
Jesus had a large fan club for a while but eventually everyone turned against Him. Maybe they wanted a hero with an extensive wardrobe, fancy house, several cars, and a swimming pool. Certainly they wanted one who could change their political situation. But most of all, they wanted a hero who would give without making any demands – and Jesus disappointed them.
He talked too much about how they should give up everything to follow Him, even their lives, and become “perfect, even as their heavenly Father is perfect.” Heroes are not supposed to do that.
So His fan club began to criticize Him. The imperfect resented Him. Soon the cheering crowd became a raging mob – and since Jesus would not put a gun to His own head (He had no reason to do so) they killed Him themselves. No one wants a perfect hero. A fallen, tarnished superstar will do.