Everyone of a certain age knows exactly where they were on the evening of the 22nd of November 1963…when it happened. That’s the day when heroes fell. A day to remember. You might naturally be recalling the assassination of President Kennedy, but I have a different man in mind. C. S. Lewis had died just a few minutes before John F. Kennedy was shot. Two men a world apart, yet both heroes to so many.
I enjoy taking visiting guests from the USA to the The Eagle and Child in Oxford, where Lewis would often go along with J.R.R. Tolkien and other literary types to meet and share ideas. Here, the kernels of thought for books like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity and (from Tolkien) the Lord of the Rings would tumble amidst the casual banter of friends at ease. In predictable tourist fashion, our guests like to visit the room, to stand by the fireplace, to catch by osmosis some “inkling” of their genius. Reading The Screwtape Letters changed my life, isn’t it only right that I admire the author? Be careful how you answer.
How easy it is to speak long and enthusiastically about our heroes. We can fill an afternoon going back and forth about Lewis or Bonhoeffer, Bono or Dylan, Ramsey or Oliver, Beckham or Best, even Apple or PC. But when was the last time you had, or even eavesdropped in on, a public conversation about the life of Christ and His merits over against all others? Lewis is a hero to me, no doubt. But only in that his work leads me quietly and reasonably and inevitably to the greatest hero of all time, Jesus Christ. If your heroes don’t point you towards such greatness, they may be idols and not heroes at all.
We all have people that we hold in high regard, people whose example spurs us on and brings us courage or hope. But the Bible warns against taking personalities too seriously. There is only one “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and it is on Him we are to fix our gaze. If Christ is not at the top of our hero list, then it may be time for a rethink. As Paul said – alluding to Jeremiah 9:24 – “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31).