The Truest Heroism


The Christian gospel firmly declares two equally necessary truths. Jesus is the hope of the nations, Jesus is what the entire human race really longs to see, the person whose presence heals all wounds and griefs; and Jesus is an utter surprise, so foreign that he is unrecognisable to those who might have been expected to welcome him. He made the world, says St. John, and he spoke in its history; but the world had no room for him and the experts in revelation and religious purity turned from him in disgust (John 1:10-11). You should never open the New Testament without remembering that the religious experts and the Temple hierarchy are the ones who see Jesus as their enemy. They don’t want to be interrupted, to stop and see.

The truth of God is the most comforting and joyful presence we can imagine; and also the most disorienting and demanding. There is a famous Old Testament story (2 Kings 5) about the great military leader of ancient Israel’s fiercest enemy, who comes to the prophet Elisha to be healed of his leprosy; and the prophet tells him simply to wash in the river. He is indignant: surely there must be something more difficult and glamorous and heroic to do? No; it’s perfectly simple. Go and wash, go and join all those ordinary humble folk who are sluicing themselves in the river after a long day’s work, or beating their laundry against the stones. Go and join the rest of the human race and acknowledge who you are. That’s the truest heroism and the hardest.

Williams, Rowan. Where Faith is Born.

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