I can remember walking through an airport as a small crowd gathered around a TV to watch Lance Armstrong win his seventh Tour de France. I was impressed with Armstrong’s performance and even inspired to work harder in my own endeavors. Most know that a few years later evidence surfaced that Armstrong cheated—the once revered hero was now disgraced, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. As of late, there seems to be a flurry of more fallen heroes. Serious criminal allegations surround a one-time comedian and actor, a paragon of family values and clean humor. The national spokesman for a fast food chain, who was undoubtedly an inspiration to many for his significant weight loss, was arrested and plead guilty to child pornography charges and crossing state lines to engage in sexual activity with minors. To add to this there have recently been two prominent Evangelical pastors who resigned from their pastorates over ethical misconduct. Another hero to many, an advocate for family values, homeschooling, Christian morality, and reality star, admitted to cheating on his wife by having an account with an adultery social media site. When heroes fall people can lose heart and grow discouraged.
As I’ve reflected upon these fallen heroes two different thoughts come to mind. The first deals with integrity. I once heard someone define integrity as, who you are when no one else is watching. In other words, in these abovementioned cases—people were living double lives—acting one way in public and another way in private. They would step in front of a crowd, say one thing, and then act completely differently behind the scenes. In these cases, we’re not talking about someone struggling with sin but rather concerted efforts to engage, carry out, and cloak sinful and even at times criminal activity. On the one hand, this type of conduct should not surprise us—those who do not profess the name of Christ have little reason to guard their private conduct. On the other hand, this type of conduct from professing Christians is a bit discouraging. This type of hypocrisy should remind us all that none of us is immune to falling into serious sin. The Bible is certainly clear about this—David, a man after God’s own heart, fell into grievous sin.
But ultimately, if we truly want to honor the name of Christ, we must seek to have integrity—we must be the same people in public and in private. When you’re surfing the web, watching a movie, engaging in private conduct, ask whether you would be ashamed or embarrassed if someone knew what you were doing. The truth of the matter is, the eyes of man might not see what you are doing but Christ does. He sees and knows all that we do, say, and think. We never escape the omniscient sight of our triune God. It’s a simple children’s hymn, but it certainly captures the truth: “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.” By God’s grace in Christ we must therefore seek integrity.
Second, while I have been discouraged by some of the events surrounding these fallen heroes, I have also been reassured of the active obedience of Christ. Jesus not only suffered the penalty of the law throughout his life, which culminated in his crucifixion, but he also actively fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law on our behalf. This means Christ never looked upon a woman with lust in his heart, he never uttered ill-tempered or thoughtless words, he never wavered a hair’s breadth from the law of God. He kept it all perfectly—he is the epitome of integrity—he was the same person in public and in private. No one will ever dig up dirt on Jesus and discover he lived a hypocritical double-life. While I may have heroes, all of them are ultimately fallible and walk with feet of clay save one, Jesus Christ. This means that in our Christian walk, we can hold our heroes in in high regard but we must always give Christ the highest place. We must always point others to Christ because in the end, all people, even Christians, are fallible. This is not to excuse Christian misconduct and sin but rather to acknowledge Christ’s impeccability and faithfulness.
In the end, these recent fallen heroes have only led me to mediate upon the dying words of J. Gresham Machen, “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it”