How to Respond to the Fall of Heroes???


Text: 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13

 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food  and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.


Today this text was the passage when we read the “Our Daily Bread”. And it was titled ‘When Someone Falls’. And I told Soji how apt this passage is when the world is waking up to the fall of grace of Iconic Cyclist Lance Armstrong after his candid confessions to Oprah Winfrey. I read a tweet that said “He is a disgrace. He polluted the cleanest mode of travelling (cycling)’. There were many people who had seen him as an icon especially after his battle with cancer and ultimate survival. His foundation “Livestrong” and his autobiography “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life” were a legacy that transcended sports to the realm of a symbol of hope and survival. For us in India he was more personal as he was an inspiration for our own cricket star “Yuvraj Singh” in battling cancer. We always get jolted when the people we idolize fall from grace. As I have said in an earlier meditation that these heroes help us to live a vicarious life which we aspire to but cant live. That is why when an icon falls, the fall is very very personal. I remember when I had finished my standard 12 in the year 2000, the news of the fall from grace of my personal icon came to the fore. The news of Hansie Cronje caught in match fixing was a very personal jolt for me. He was one person I admired both as a cricketer and a human being. I had a taken a vow that I will never follow cricket again. Obviously I did not live up to my oath. But it did hamper me in more ways than one.

So what does the text above tell us? Paul is reminding the Church of Corinth of the fallings in the history of Israel. They were people journeying with Moses; God gave them the hope of a Promised Land and nourished them with Manna. But the people who began the journey fell midway in the desert. But this recounting of history had a purpose clearly stated in vs 6. “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” Paul is orienting us to the purpose and journey of our lives. In the Journey, God is not only interested in where we reach but who we become. He urges us that the heroes who fall are an example to us. It reminds us of our fallibility too. We are in a culture of competition where everyone believes winning is all that matters. Lance Armstrong epitomized that. In our daily lives let us stop for a while. Look at our lives. Don’t we too subscribe to the notion of “end justifies the means. Win at all costs. Nobody remembers who came second”.

The common response to Public failings is a head shaking in disbelief asking “How could he do that?” As David McCasland says “More helpful response would be the head that nods, ‘Yes, even I am capable of doing such a thing’, then bows in prayer for the one who has fallen.”

Whenever there are such failings of heroes and icons I remember what my parents taught me as a child. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 2. I live by that. There are examples that still give us hope. I have a friend Biren Subba who is a commando in the Indian Army. He is from Sikkim. He was my batchmate when I was doing my under graduation studies. Biren was a National Kickboxing Champion for two consecutive years (1999, 2000). He trained hard to defend his title in the year 2001. He was involved in 8 hours of rigorous practice for 6 months. As friends we wished him luck to go for a hat-trick. The competition was in Mumbai. It was supposed to be on for 2 weeks. But Biren returned to Pune within two days. My friends concluded that he had an early exit from the tourney. When we asked him about the proceedings of the tournament he replied “Every year the registration fee is Rs 1,500. But this year they made it Rs 5,000. There was a boy who had come to the tournament from my village in Sikkim. I had not seen him before. But he did not have the money to register. I know my place. When somebody goes for such a big tournament they have a lot of hopes.I did not want him to return home disappointed just because he did not have money. So I gave my money to him, as that was all that I had. I wished him luck.” He gave his chance to the boy from his land. A National Champion who had the magnanimity to let go his chance to win the glory for the third time is a story that has been part of my personal journey. I ask myself “Am I capable of that?” I need to grow to become somebody like that. That too is an example. Such stories point to the divinity in humanity and the potential we can achieve as humans. I fix my eyes on Jesus. Amen. 


Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church