What constitutes a hero these days? Does one have to have a super power or wear an elaborate costume? Super heroes are fun to watch and read about but they aren’t realistic, we live in the real world and we need real heroes. Christians used to have heroes. We had men and women of the faith that we could look up to. We would read about their bravery; we would tell our children about their great faith; but no more, our hero’s stories are being rewritten and Christian heroism is being redefined.
On November 17th John Allen Chau was killed by the Sentinelese; a primitive tribe living on an island off the coast of India in the Bay of Bengal. The tribes people refuse contact from the outside world. They want to continue their primitive ways without interruption. John was trying to share the gospel with this tribe when he was killed by them. In the days after the missionary died, people were already weighing in, calling him a fool and saying he got what he deserved for his intrusion. Many in our culture looked at Chau with distain claiming he was wrong to go and share his faith. They said he was simply a privileged westerner trying to push his faith on people who didn’t want it.
Culture does not think that Chau is a hero, but what about Christians? Should we revere him for his boldness? Should we honor him for living out the great commission? I think we should. Men and women, for the past two thousand years, have been called fools for standing up for their faith. They have been martyred for loving Jesus and taking His commands seriously.
Christians today benefit from the fights that so many others have given their life for. One of the more well-known examples is the plight of Martin Luther in the early 1500’s, when he faced off against the Catholic church. He claimed that salvation came by faith alone, not through the authority or works of the church. Others like William Tyndale died for their faith. He was persecuted by Henry VIII for a crime of unauthorized translating of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew to the English. The church didn’t want the common people to have God’s word, they wanted it to remain in Latin. Tyndale died for the belief that everyone should have access to God’s word.
Another hero of mine is Adoniram Judson, who bravely went to what is now Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the early 1800’s. It is located on the same peninsula as Thailand and Vietnam. His mission work was very difficult. On top of it all two wives and seven of his thirteen children died on the mission field. Judson had little success during his lifetime, but his legacy was monumental. Today the Myanmar Baptist Convention has 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members. This would not be possible without the work and sacrifice of Adoniram Judson, who died from a disease contracted on the mission field.
So many others have sacrificed much for boldly taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. These men and women are heroes whose stories should be remembered. Maybe none more so than the story of Jim Elliot who suffered a similar fate to John Allen Chau. Elliott and team of four other missionaries sought to reach a secluded tribe in Ecuador in 1956. His entire team was killed by the tribe. His wife Elisabeth Elliot went on the minister to this tribe and eventually lived among them for several years. All of these people are heroes of the faith for the boldness to share the gospel, even though it cost some of them their lives.
To be a hero of the faith means following the commands of Jesus to take the gospel to all nations. Why? Because the gospel is the power of God to save men from eternal damnation. This is the driving force behind our boldness. Where the world sees a fool’s errand, Christians should see an essential mission to bring the gospel to all people, no matter the cost. Let’s remember these and the many other heroes for boldly proclaiming the gospel. But more than remember them, let’s honor their legacy by living with the same gospel passion. Elisabeth Elliot said it best, “There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for.”