This afternoon I was driving my son home from his work at a garden center. His job is ½ hour away from where we live but we have been more than willing to make the drive twice every day as many of the jobs high school students normally fill during our hot Ontario summers are not easy to come by in this post-COVID world. As we sped past farmland filled with newly planted crops we listened to CBC as the host fielded calls from Ontario listeners. The topic under discussion was the question of whether or not we should change the names of cities and streets if the current names had been adopted from those in history who might have had a shady record when it came to slavery.
The callers were passionate in their feedback, ranging from deep affront that our current society would disregard the past and in effect try to erase it, to emotional pleas from parents who, because of the color of their skin, found the memorializing of these names to be hurtful in the extreme and impossible to explain to their children. The host did her best, but it was clear she was not sufficient for navigating such tempestuous waters. The callers’ responses led, in turn, to a compelling discussion between my son and me.
Searching for a hero
What was most remarkable in the entire radio discussion was how disappointed everyone was to “discover” that their heroes were flawed; to learn that the men and women of the past had sticky records, with bad decisions and reprehensible viewpoints dotting their lives. My son noticed that there seemed to be more than disappointment in the voices of the callers, many were just plain outraged.
Why? Why are we shocked when the sins of our heroes materialize and besmirch what we believed were impeccable records? Why are we almost personally offended when we unearth brokenness in the lives of past men and women? Could it be that we are angry because we have placed our trust in cracked vessels, and now these men and women are failing the faith we have put in them? It appears that many of us are in an ongoing search for a truly great hero, for one who will not disappoint.
Perhaps the callers on the radio show were simply expressing a longing deep within every human heart. That we would find one who will not let us down. One who will not only measure up to every impossible standard that we set for others, (never for ourselves because we, of course, need grace), but one who will far surpass those expectations.
The good news is that there is a hero who shines through the mists of history, One who is truly faultless. And the true beauty of this One lies in the fact that our expectations of Him will never be enough; He is utterly and incandescently lovely, and our hearts will never be disappointed when they rest in Him. Every time we think He cannot possibly be as heroic as our hearts long for, He will prove Himself to be more so.
The answer to the question of when to tear down statues or when to stand behind street names is complex, requiring both wisdom and determination. To his credit, the biblical Gideon tore down the high places his family members had built, being willing to shoulder their outrage rather than disobey God. And yet, to his fault, he later made an ephod in an effort to memorialize the triumph over Midian with the result that all Israel worshipped it – causing them to give honor to something detestable instead of what was true.
There are not always easy answers when we try to unravel what to do with the tangle of sin threaded through the lives of the various characters that line history’s wall. But just as we have been thankful for the work that was provided for our son this summer, we can be even more thankful for the work that was accomplished by another Son thousands of summers ago. A work that covers the snarl of sin that is present not only in the lives of others but is also found starkly in our own broken hearts. And the work of that Son will never disappoint, for He will never fail. His name is Jesus Christ.