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David Hegg: We need a society of heroes

Posted: May 12, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The past months have been a constant barrage of stories about tragedy. Horror in Newtown, bombs in Boston, flooding in the Midwest, fires in SoCal … all bringing loss of life, loss of property, and loss of our sense of wellbeing. But in every case there were also stories of exceptional devotion to duty, to courage, and to an essential ingredient in healthy society: sacrificial service.

Every day our heroes are on their posts. The law enforcement, fire, civic, and medical professionals who constantly train and prepare stand ready to rush in — despite the risks and unknowns — to put their lives and knowledge at the disposal of those in need.

They do it without thought to their own comfort, without regard for the dangers involved, and they do it well … again and again and again.

As our society increasingly is becoming a mass of self-centered consumers driven to get more and more and more in a feverish rush for self-gratification, it is worth considering what drives our first responders to give their all to help those they don’t even know.

At the heart of it all is an intentional conviction that the lives and safety of others are worth putting their own lives on the line.

We could simply say they live to serve others. They have chosen to dedicate their lives to making sure others are safe, and properly cared for. And even further down in their psyche is a belief that the lives of other people matter greatly, even more than their own if the situation calls for it.

This kind of sacrificial thinking is humbling, rare, and absolutely essential to the existence of a well-ordered, noble, and successful society. Frankly, we need more of this from all of us.

As a Christian pastor, my boss — a man named Jesus — understood the necessity of self-denial as a prerequisite to being a benefit to the world around us.

When he called those in the crowd to follow him he first demanded that they come to understand the value of denying self. That is, to stop living only for self, learn to live beyond their own interests, and find great purpose in serving others and looking out for their interests.

One of his biographers would later write "He didn’t come to be served, but to serve and give his life to rescue others."

Much has been made about America’s "greatest generation", those who left farm and family to battle the Axis powers, and then returned to build a great post-war nation.

They were characterized by this same trait, sacrificial service to others. Even today when some of them are interviewed regarding their achievements, they simply remind us that they weren’t doing anything extraordinary.

They were only doing what was right, and pouring their lives into what was best for their comrades, and their country.

While every tragedy is a reminder that we live in a broken world, it is also an opportunity to see how the attitudes that fight against this brokenness are still vibrant in the hearts of our heroes. And they set an example for us all.

What we need are more folks willing to look out for the interests of others, to consider others as more important than their own petty desires and conveniences.

America groans under the weight of a growing selfishness, a growing addiction to what is easy and convenient, all coupled to the thought that none of us is really responsible for our neighbor.

But the reality is that, while my home is mine, and your home is yours, this land in which we live belongs to us all, and it is our privilege to serve one another in big and small ways, always striving to overwhelm our innate selfishness with the grand intention of sacrificial service.

We could use a whole society of heroes.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. Ethically Speaking runs every Sunday.


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