The author of the book What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness, Elizabeth Svoboda, writes in an article in the Washington Post:
“[Heroes] flash into public view like signal flares, dazzling us with their courageous and selfless acts.
“[Like] Wesley Autrey, who jumped onto New York City subway tracks to save a man from an oncoming train. Captain Chesley Sullenberger of US Airways, who landed his plane and passengers safely on New York’s Hudson River…Charles Ramsey, who helped free Amanda Berry from her kidnapper’s Cleveland home…Antoinette Tuff, who talked would-be Georgia school shooter Michael Brandon Hill into putting down his rifle so students could get out alive.
“Actions like these might seem to be split-second snap judgments, but often they are a natural result of lives that have primed people for selflessness. Put another way: Heroes aren’t born, they’re made.
“Expertise and training in helping others often spur people to act — rather than run or freeze — in a crisis. Even if someone hasn’t faced a particular emergency before, extensive and even general preparation helps the brain act almost automatically…even if you face personal consequences.
“…Ethics codes and experience-based training typically complement one another: Codes provide a standard to strive for, and training gives people tools they need to meet that standard.
“Other times, our difficult life experiences may help us identify with others’ vulnerabilities in ways that awaken our generosity…Science confirms the power of past difficulties to transform our outlook toward others.
“How much of a role does personality play? Not necessarily a defining one…And despite their unselfish actions, heroes don’t always have spotless backgrounds…But these heroes’ missteps don’t detract from their selfless acts. In a way, it’s reassuring that even heroes aren’t perfect. Seeing their flaws gives the rest of us hope that regardless of our shortfalls, we, too, can do important work to benefit those around us.
“This mind-set might help explain why the people we consider heroes often reject the label [of hero. Instead]…they see their selfless acts as part of their duty to other human beings. When… asked…if [they feel] like a hero, [they say]: “No. No, no, no, no, bro. I’m … just like you.”
Willing, selfless heroes are made, not born. People who willingly, without hesitation, act on behalf of others rarely just happens. Life trains and grooms them for a time when they need to automatically, yet willingly, act in selfless life and death matters.
Followers of Christ understand that the willing acceptance to change and prepare for selfless action is pivotal to our spiritual growth.
We are chosen by God to accomplish a specific mission that He has clearly laid before us. However, we have a choice. We can choose to be selfless voluntarily participants in the training program of which the Holy Spirit is the major vehicle through which God teaches. It enables us to respond from a heart that clearly sees God’s purpose. Not just for ourselves, but for the entire world.
The New Covenant requires us to be daily participants who willingly transform our hearts and minds over a lifetime. Hearts that are being shaped by a proper relationship with Him through the power of His Holy Spirit living within us. Christ was the perfect reflection of His Father’s nature and He willingly revealed the Father’s purpose for humanity:
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law. . . . I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house” (Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7).
Christ’s life was the ultimate selfless offering. In the beginning, He was with God and He was God (John 1.1). Christ was the One chosen to set the perfect example for us. The One in whom is the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the One who helps us become willing to follow Him in word, thought and deed. The One through whom salvation would come to all humanity. His heart was 100% supportive of the Father’s plan of salvation.
I want to examine three attributes of Christ’s heart a little more closely.
Attribute #1 He did nothing from a personal motivation. Christ was 100% selfless.
Christ, though He was God, nevertheless humbly submitted to His Father’s cause, knowing full well the consequences at the end. He never thought that being God in the flesh exempted Him from suffering. Instead, as God, He made Himself one who should suffer willingly.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5–8).
Attribute #2: Christ recognized that God’s plan must go forward according the Father’s Will, not His own.
“Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. . . . For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:44,49-50).
Christ’s first coming provided humanity the way to a reconciled relationship with God the Father. Christ provided the means to how human beings could live eternally with the God Family.
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
“Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
Attribute #3 Christ’s selflessly died for the cause.
“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:14–18).
While Christ willingly laid down His life for us, it doesn’t stop with Christ.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, will we die for ourselves or for a cause greater than ourselves? If we’re worried about ourselves, we’re dying for ourselves. If we’re worried about the cause, we’re dying for the purpose that God has given us, which gives us life. We’ve been elected to die for God’s cause spiritually and possibly physically.
Paul speaks to this in Romans 8 speaking of the consequences of preaching the truth for Christ’s sake:
“As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter’ ” (Romans 8:36). But Paul nevertheless states: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
The whole phrase, “more than conquerors”, is one Greek word and it is the only place it is found in scripture. It means the enemy doesn’t stand a chance and has already lost. Christ said, “I’ve overcome the world.” We need to be battling to overcome ourselves, to change. God will take care of the world. We just need to see God’s purpose for His called-out ones now. We must begin asking ourselves every day, “What am I living for? Why do I get up every morning?
We have been elected, called to be transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ. To be willing, selfless participants means that we are literally freewill offerings to God and His purpose. Christ is the greatest freewill offering leaving us a perfect example of willing sinlessness to inculcate into our lives.
The Holy Spirit helps us to fully reflect Christ’s example by giving us a heart that willingly offers our lives day by day, allowing Him to live in us as we yield to His Will.
This is what we, the entire body of Christ, have been asked to do:
“as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “
For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3–11).
This is how heroes are made.