I’ve been reading Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics, by Samuel Wells, in my theology class. So far (I’m only on chapter 3), I love it. The basic point of the book is that we are called to live a life, rooted in the community of the church, in which God cultivates us in certain virtues. Our life and interaction in/with the world should be as a people shaped by these God-cultivated characteristics (basically a Christian virtue ethic).
Okay, that is the big picture. In part of his second chapter, Wells, discusses the differences between being a “hero” and being a “saint.” I made this little chart to show the difference:
The story always revolves around the hero The saint is always in the periphery of the story… the story is always really about God
The story is told to celebrate the hero’s valor
The story is told to celebrate faith The model of the hero is a solider in which heroism is its own reward The model of the saint is the martyr in which the sacrifice makes no sense unless rewarded by God
Without the hero all would be lost The saint expects to fail… the story continues with God’s greater victory or in a cycle of repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration
Heroes stand alone, learning to depend on themselves and their own resources Saints require community (every time the word is used in the New Testament it is plural). Saints learn to depend upon God and the community of faith.
The thing that really challenged me is my desire to be a hero. I have admitted it before, I am a thirty something year old man that still regularly daydreams about fighting zombies, ninjas, girl scouts, etc… I am constantly imagining scenarios, where I have to overcome mighty obstacles to get the whatever (girl, money, fame, extra life). Even when I am discussing little things with my wife like grades, there was some sort of obstacle (lack of time, computer malfunctions, ill-formed assignments) that I had to overcome to receive my proper reward (A, B, C, D, F).
In a way it makes sense. We are, or at least I am, an egocentric people. I try to relate and empathize and be about the “other,” but at the end of the day it’s still my face I see in the mirror. This is “my” life; “I am” (see what I did there) still the only one that can live it.
But the thing is that being a Christian is about repentance. It is about dying. It is about rebirth. It means when I talk about “my” life, it isn’t just me I’m talking about…