Raising The Bar On What's Heroic
Recently. I found myself watching a viral video of two police officers on a beach in California work to free a young seal from a hunk of fishing net that had entangled it. The frightened seal kept trying to bite his would-be liberators, but they finally cut him loose.
The caption below the video read something like, "Hero-Cops Free Seal."
It seemed odd to me that an act of kindness for a creature in distress--an act that seems so natural, so instinctual by most human beings--would be considered heroic. It felt a bit like the word was being used too broadly, cheapening it somehow.
Which makes sense because I've been thinking about this quote I read the other day from The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis---a quote that has been haunting me ever since.
In the passage in question, Lewis remarks on the degradation of a society “inside which minimum decency passes for heroic virtue and utter corruption for pardonable imperfection.”
If there was ever a time in our recent history to which Lewis' remarks apply, I would have to say it's right now. You don't have to look too far to find the "utter corruption" that he references. We are bombarded by it every day.
I also have to wonder if perhaps the "utter corruption" of our political, economic and institutional systems has served as the very thing which has lowered our expectations about what is heroic virtue.
It's almost as if when someone does something that a human being ought to do, the ever-present, social media Greek chorus of those who are quick to applaud and share act as though the person should be nominated for a Nobel Prize.
Jesus had this way of taking the status quo of what people considered laudable when it came to doing right and turning it on its head.
He would say things like, "You have heard it said (translation: you have been taught this is good enough), but I say to you..."
You see, Jesus was all about raising the bar of what was laudable, acceptable and truly human. He urged his followers to go above and beyond the bare minimum of decency to embrace what was truly heroic and virtuous.
May you raise the bar in your life for what is heroic. May you aspire to live into your true humanity, and to fulfill God's dreams for your life as you seek to do good in the world, and thereby change it.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.