Last night at the dinner table, my family was discussing the challenges that missionaries face in different cultures.
For example, the cannibals on one South Pacific island had difficulty accepting Christ's gospel because they saw Judas Iscariot as a hero. Their culture promoted betrayal as a virtue. If you could make someone believe that you were his best friend and then betray him, he would become the choicest morsel.
In one area of Asia dominated by an oppressive regime, missionaries experience difficulty in persuading new believers to confess their faith publicly because of fear of persecution. In their culture, a hero is synonymous with anyone who survives, whatever the cost. Cowardice is a virtue.
As we discussed the situation, we came to realize that Christianity challenges our culture's definitions of a hero, too.
In government, a politician can become a hero despite his support of the unnecessary killing of pre-born children. Apathy, neglect, and malice become virtues.
In entertainment, a rap artist can become a hero by performing songs advocating murder and the abuse of women. Hatred becomes admirable.
In business, a man can become a hero by being ruthless and dishonest with his competitors. Selfishness, greed, envy, and dishonesty become our values.
In video games, one can take on the persona of a hero by becoming a virtual rapist and cop-killer. Senseless violence and ruthlessness become virtues.
Christianity challenges every culture's heroes. The Holy Spirit tells Christians, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).