The Fall of Heroes


But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
—Ezekiel 18:24

Today’s post is not a treatise on the permanence (or impermanence, as some believe) of grace. Rather it is about the decline of heroes.

When I was growing up, my father regaled me with stories of his semi-crazed neighbor, a little kid named Pete Rose. With the Edelen house right next to the Rose home (and the only two houses on the street) my dad had few playmates his age and often had encounters with the much younger Rose boy next door. At one point, Rose shot my dad in the foot over a bet about steel-toed workboots. My dad lost that bet—painfully.

In spite of this, I grew up in Cincinnati as a huge fan of the Reds. Fortunate enough to be baseball crazy right as the Big Red Machine—which I will argue is the greatest collection of ballplayers ever assembled—was winning back-to-back World Series in the mid-Seventies. And of all the players on that team, none was more of a hero to me than Pete Rose, the scrappy, tough, never-say-die local who went to the top of the sport.

We all know how that turned out, though.

I have a young son and can only hope that there will still be men worth emulating as he grows older, but I have my doubts. A disease is running rampant through our society that has as one of its worst symptoms a perplexing pedes problem: feet are turning to clay.

I’m not sure if it is a function of growing older, but I simply do not meet people of deep character anymore. The strong man or woman out there seems to always have a fatal flaw that keeps them from greatness or shatters the illusion of greatness they have erected for themselves.

The decline of heroes has a chilling effect on our society. It makes us more cynical, less hopeful, and less willing to believe the good rather than the bad in people. It may be true that all men are sinners from birth, but we once aspired to more than our birthright. Now we just assume it with a shrug.

The football coach is a pederast. The Sunday School teacher cheats on her taxes. The police officer beats his wife. The ballet teacher engages in one illicit affair after another. The baseball hero gambles his life away.

I know people of deep character, but so many are in the twilight of life and I wonder where their generational legacy is. We say we look to the Church, but are we truly people of character or are we faking it?

I’m weary of hearing the stories relayed and tired of seeing the bubbles burst. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve sat with other men and heard one story after another of porn addiction or infidelity. Newsweek recently ran an article on the huge boom in married women who are having affairs. Kids are cheating in school in numbers that are staggering. A college prof noted recently that almost all the papers he’s getting he’s read before or seen posted on the Internet.

We’ve lost our ability to be heroes when we decide that being as low as the next guy is okay. Truth is, the standard for being low is, well…getting lower by the day. More accountability groups exist within churches than ever before and yet we are more morally slack than any generation I recall.

Does anyone want to be a hero? Who still thinks that character counts for something? I may be forty-two here in a couple days, but I don’t want to believe there are no more heroes. Wisdom may say that all have sinned, but to believe that none overcome is more than anyone should bear.

6 thoughts on “The Fall of Heroes

  1. Doug,

    A hero for me? Well, I don’t know anymore. Of people that I have met in my life who are still living, I wouldn’t really say anyone right now. My mom would fit, but she’s deceased. Outside my family, I always admired British revivalist Leonard Ravenhill, but he’s passed on, too. I’ve always admired Barnabas in the Bible, being able to help raise up Paul yet graciously realize that his student would exceed him.

  2. Mark

    I didn’t have a hero – not a person in my life at any rate. Sure there were folks in stories, the news, in the bible, or on television that i wanted to be like. It sure wasn’t my dad or someone from church. I’ve given up looking for such a hero. Instead I’ve choosen to be a hero to my kids, the kids in church, my 34 nieces and nephews, and the kids in our community. It means i get up at 4 am and go to work so i can get home by 3 pm when they get home. It means i teach them about the bible. it means i spend all my time and money and share my learning and life’s experiance with them. It means i’ve choose a different definition of sucess instead of the fancy car and huge house. We started a christian band. Learned martial arts together and obtained black belts. It means every summer we leave for a month for mission trips. it means fighting for justice, setting young people free from sin,… – on a daily basis. it means not serving myself and serving my wife and children according to God’s word. I’m a hero in progress!

  3. Anonymous

    As one who has fallen, I was constantly drowning in the discouragement of my own failures and the many that I have seen. I know this is not specific to your post but since there are so many who have fallen as I, where is our hope? what do we do now? do we give up and hide?
    I have personally chosen to do my best to fight that much harder. Against sin in my own camp, sins that I now see led me to such disaster, liberal ideas and views that will lead people to think that they can get by or to entice them to go that much deeper into sin.
    Yes, I have lost much of my credibility with many people. But it has put my judgemental attitude in higher check. And it has opened doors that would have been closed. For now I can say, “this” is wrong and it will lead to “this”. Don’t fall for “that” because “here” is where you could end up.
    For those like me who have fallen, you will not be able to start where you left off and be right. BUT in God’s grace and mercy, you can start someplace lower and go and grow where God plants you. And you can live in the determination to never betray your God again and you can be recycled and live in a state of repentance and men will see your good works and glorify our Father for the one sheep that wandered from the flock.
    Please send more help for the fallen and you who’ve fallen, repent and turn back with your whole heart and God can use you again.

  4. Anonymous,

    …for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
    (Proverbs 24:16 ESV)

    The difference between the righteous and the unrighteous is that the righteous get off the ground and stand upright again.

    Jonathan Edwards wrote a book in which he advised young Christians to take some time to let the Holy Spirit examine them inside and then pray out any known sins, even if they had confessed them in the past. Let them all come out so that the Enemy can hold nothing against you. I did that and found it a great way to start over again from scratch. I cannot recommend this spiritual exercise enough. Take a month or two, but look back over your whole life by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and pray all those sins out, every single one that is brought to mind. And when it is all done, get back on the narrow road and walk it.

    The other issue here is that many people in your shoes see the Lord not as a lover but as a taskmaster. Learn to love the Lord for Himself alone. I’ve found that your love for God will be a greater means to avoid sin than the fear of sinning itself.

    I prayed for you just now. Blessings.

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