Print Version January 31st, 2005
It’s quite a stirring list—all those heroes of faith and all the trials they encountered. Weak people, it says, who were given strength. And such a lot of strength to face all the hardship the reading piles up, line after line. So much so that it’s quite a shock to get to the last sentence—for all their bravery and for all their faith our heroes missed out on the prize. For all their faith they only get their reward in company with you and me, for whom heroism is but a faint hope.
Faith is a strange thing. Heroism too. For my money the poor man among the tombs is a hero of faith.
This is a man who wants to be dead. Cannot bear to be alive. He wanders the tombs, gashing himself with stones. But when Jesus comes along you realise the man isn’t single-minded in his desperation—there is a war within. Part of him runs up to Jesus. Part of him begs to be left alone. Attraction and aversion. Fear and hope. And the hope and the attraction make all the difference.
What makes him a hero isn’t his struggle, isn’t the gory story, isn’t the passionate preaching that follows. What makes him a hero is simply this: at the crucial moment he let his attraction to Jesus surface amidst all the fear.
That’s the heart of faith. And that’s a heroism we can all share. God, we desire beyond desire. But there are all sorts of fears and diversions that rise up in us whenever we seem in danger of getting what we want. A legion of little voices whispering ‘are you sure?’, ‘is this safe?’, or ‘better stay here with these nice familiar tombs—pass the gashing stone, will you’.
Faith is about trusting the attraction we feel however faint. It’s a simple heroism. To trust for a moment the beauty we glimpse, the smile we wonder at, the beat of God’s gentle heart. Only for a moment. A moment is all it takes. This moment.