Australian evangelist John Smith asks whether we're willing to be a hero for Jesus.

John Smith
John Smith

I was wearing a black armband in 1988 - the year of Australia's 200 years celebration -and so was my wife. Why? Because the history of my nation, as well as having some wonderful moments, has 200 years of rape, pillage and murder of a people that were here for probably 40,000 years before we came.

The Old Testament prophets spoke out constantly against the Jews because of nationalism. They called it idolatry. I want to be a worshipper of God, not my country. To a certain extent, a feeling of love for your nation is good and godly, because your nation is just your extended family. But my Bible says that anyone who loves father and mother, let alone his nation, more than Jesus is unable to be his disciple.

So if my nation wants to do what is ungodly, it can depend on John Smith to be a traitor. And if my nation wants to have a year's party and continue to ignore its history and fail to repent, then I will be glad to be outside the party. My allegiance is to the values and truth of the Kingdom of God. That doesn't make me much of a hero in Australian terms, does it?

Charles Finney, the father of the theology of revival, said there would be no revival unless Christians dealt with questions of justice. If you're a racist, he said, you are not a Christian. Christians today always leave that bit out, but the old revivalist was clear and Jesus and Paul happened to agree, in the strongest possible terms. Unless we deal with the issues, we can't expect that the Spirit of God will move among us. What's that got to do with heroes?

One way or another, we would all love to be heroes. The only problem is the reason we want to be heroes isn't good enough. When I was a kid Australians really didn't like winners. They liked sincere tryers.

The kind of heroic figures we traditionally remember are dear old blokes like Burke and Wills. They go out into the bush, leave their lunch under a gum tree then forget to count which gum tree it is and when they come back they can't find their tucker, so they die in the desert.

When we want to see a movie that displays heroism in Australia, we show young blokes pouring over the top of Gallipoli and getting gunned down. Now not all of that's bad. Some of it is saying that what counts is what's in the heart, that it's a commitment to the reality of the personhood underneath that really matters, not whether you happen to be voted on top or not.

But today we have a winner complex emerging. When I hear the 'win' preachers, I have a problem. I find the people who speak with the most authority in the Bible are not the winners - not in the world's terms.

Jesus' public ministry basically ended with a crucifixion. And he said, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Jesus said if it's so with the master, it's going to be so with the followers. At the end of the first century, all of the charismatic, Spirit-filled, apostles extraordinaire had been executed but for one, and he was in exile on an island called Patmos.

In the world's terms they weren't winners. Jesus didn't save them from prison, the sword, the lions, crucifixion. They weren't successes. Paul ended his life with many of the churches he founded in profound trouble and division. His later ministry was filled with controversy, hurt, loneliness, disappointment and defensiveness.

In prison towards the end of a ministry that had involved everything - healing, prophecy, great vision, fantastic evangelism, missionary activity all over the then known world - he says, "They have almost all forsaken me. Nevertheless the Lord has stood with me."

Do you want to be a hero? On what terms? You can be a very acceptable hero to the church today and be a long, long way from the shape of Jesus of Nazareth or his followers.

Heroes are committed. Heroes make preparations. Heroes count the cost. It's tomorrow and the day after that's going to matter. And that will take commitment - body, mind and spirit.

Jesus, make us heroes to those who want liberation, who want grace, who want change. Make us the heroes to the ones that you were a hero to. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.