Who's the Hero?
As an unabashed Star Wars fan, I was excited when the latest Star Wars movie hit the theaters in December. As much as I like them, one of my most striking memories of Star Wars did not occur while watching a Star Wars movie. Instead, it happened during the previews of a different movie back in November 1996.
At that point, there were only three Star Wars movies – Star Wars (A New Hope), Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. We think of them now as episodes four, five, and six, but at that time, they were noted by their names, and they were being updated and re-released the following March. Having watched each of the films countless times on VHS (yes, I am that old), I was excited at the prospect of seeing them on the big screen again, which was something I had not done since I was eight.
I was at the theatre on a Friday with some friends when it happened. During the previews, the LucasArts logo suddenly appeared and the theater went silent, almost painfully so, in anticipation. The preview began with X-Wings flying in pursuit of Tie-Fighters and continued with lightsabers, blaster fights, and memorable moments from the beloved film. The preview ended and a roar of applause erupted from the theater, a waterfall of cheers and clapping that drowned out conversation and whatever poor preview appeared next.
Of course I watched all three of the re-released movies when they came to the theater, enjoying each one and picking out the parts added or modified from the original. I oohed and aahed at all of the right moments and looked forward to the possibility of a new trilogy that was rumored to be in production. The story had captivated me when I was young and seeing the preview took me back to a different time and a different place.
Like most children of my generation who grew up playing with Star Wars figures and watching the movies, I wanted to be a part of the story. Somehow fighting with lightsabers against the Empire or shooting it out with Storm Troopers while fleeing in escape seemed exciting or romantic. Being part of a story bigger than myself, even if using plastic baseball bats instead of real lightsabers and using toy guns instead of real blasters, resonated deeply with me, and it still does. I wanted to be the hero, defeating the bad guys, saving those in distress, receiving the accolades. I still do.
Usually we think of “the hero” as the person who accomplishes extraordinary things or takes great risks or shows immense bravery. Han Solo swooping in on the Falcon to block Darth Vader, Luke blowing up the Death Star, Obi-Wan allowing himself to be killed to save Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca.
I think that is why following Christ can be so hard because we want to be the hero in our story. But when we read the Bible, we learn that we are not the hero – Jesus is.
There are many “heroes” in the Bible - people who do some amazing things. The entirety of Hebrews 11 is a commentary on people throughout the Old Testament who are considered “heroes of the faith.” What is fascinating with each person though, is that they walk and act “by faith”. This faith is not in the god of our own creation, the god we think should exist, or an all powerful Force. This is faith in the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, the One who was and is and is to come. The great works and achievements do not occur because of the power or wisdom of the people, instead those things are accomplished by the power of the Lord. These people are not the hero in their story - God is. In fact, when people try to be God, things go horribly wrong.
As followers of Christ, we are not the heroes in our lives. Our role is that of the people being rescued, of being delivered from the bad guys, of cowering and quaking while being led into the transport that will take us to safety. No cheers, no accolades, no banners - we are The Rescued with dirty clothes and weary bodies.
But that is only the first part of the story. You see, when we are rescued, by faith in Christ, everything changes. We go from enslavement to freedom and from darkness to light. We may not be the hero who conquers villains or rescues those in distress, but we suddenly move to the victor’s side. We get to cheer for the hero because we cannot do what the hero does. Instead, He does it for each of us. And the most amazing part of it all is that by faith, each of us can be a part of His work. Not for our glory and honor, but for His.
I went to the theater and watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi with my daughter, who has become a Star Wars fan too. Some of my children like it and some do not, which is okay. Since my children are human like me, I know they struggle with their own desire to be the hero, whether in a galaxy far, far away or here in Tennessee. I want them to know that, just like me, they cannot be the hero of their story, but by faith, we can know the One who is and be a part of His work.
Eric is a former educator with a desire for communicating the gospel of Christ. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Louisville and a Masters of Divinity in Theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.