CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENT NOT CELEBRITY
You don’t find monkeys base jumping, or gorillas scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, or chimps parachuting from planes at 20,000 feet.
Only human beings have a desire to transcend their natural limitations, to take risks in order to make a mark and be remembered.
What’s more, only human beings long to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through making some breakthrough for science, or defining a new point of excellence in our profession, or giving our time and money for charity, or even raising great kids, we long to leave a legacy.
We are wired for significance through achievement.
The Judeo/Christian faith teaches that humankind is made in the image of a wise, benevolent, just and, above all, loving Father. We were made to inhabit a special place of favour under God, overseeing his natural creation and developing its awesome potential.
In this, we are like God himself. Throughout the Bible, God revealed himself as someone who thinks in epic, heroic terms.
The God of the Bible aligns himself with the underdog; he exalts the lowly and brings success to the little guy, in defiance of the odds; think David and Goliath.
God takes risks.
The birth of Jesus labelled the incarnation was the greatest risk of all. According to the Bible, God the Son took on human form to rescue us from ourselves, to redeem our lives to bring us into the Kingdom of heaven. As St. John put it, ‘he came unto his own, but his own received him not.’
This was a massive risk. Human beings are creatures of free will, with the capacity to accept or refuse any gift, no matter how lovingly it is given. The sinful, fallen tendencies in our nature makes us more likely to walk away from God than to accept him, even when He comes to teach us profound things about love and to perform amazing acts of mercy.
From a human standpoint – and we must remember that Jesus who was fully God was also fully man and so as a human – the cross was a heroic act. The four gospels amplify the fact that Jesus had every chance to avoid it.
On many occasions, he foretold how he would die – and why. His disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying. ‘What’s all this talk about dying?’ they thought, ‘He’s so full of life!’
In the last week of his life, Jesus’ every word and action seems to have been designed to bring on a confrontation with the authorities and eventually hasten his demise. All along, he was pursuing the cross.
‘No man takes my life from me,’ he said. ‘I lay it down willingly.’ He was no victim of circumstance: taking this path was his choice.
Jesus may have thought: ‘What if nobody ever remembers this moment? What if my death is forgotten, my life and all that I’ve done simply buried in history? What if people don’t accept this salvation which, for me, comes at such a high price?’
Today, the life and death of Christ form a standard against which other human achievements are measured.
They show us that achievement often comes on the other side of adversity; that heroism is usually born in the fires of trial; that the world is changed not by celebrity-seekers but by people who take self-denying risks to improve the lot of others.
In a culture that is so smitten with the self-importance of celebrity, so taken with the idea of fame for fame’s sake, it’s healthy for us to remember that celebrity itself does little to change the world for good.
If any modern day celebrity were to remind us that self-sacrifice and service, combined with a voice of hope, are the way to real and lasting influence, then perhaps their recognition could be the used as an achievement. Until then celebrity is empty. We need to celebrate the heroism of selfless accomplishments not selfish accolades.
Photo credit: Guardian UK