Why do our heroes die?

The death of Chadwick Boseman hit all of us hard for all kinds of reasons:

Because it was so unexpected.

Because Boseman never revealed his private battle.

Because he was so young.

Because we hate cancer.

Because 2020.

Most striking for me is that Chadwick Boseman was a hero to us. As T’Challa he represented strength and royalty. As Black Panther he was protector and warrior. We all crave leaders who embody humility and power too. In real life and in cinema, Chadwick Boseman did that.

Not all of our heroes rise to that level, but we hate it when they die and we question God about it. At least I do.

What does God answer? In the case of Boseman, Jesus came to mind.

Before his death, Jesus said to the disciples:

But I am telling you the truth: it is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you. But if I do go away, then I will send him to you. John 16.7

The Helper Jesus referred to is the Holy Spirit, the Reprover, Comforter, Counselor and Spirit of Truth. Jesus acknowledged that the disciples would grieve upon his departure, but he also wanted them to be affirmed and encouraged. They were going to be equipped with real-life vibranium to carry out his mission after he left the earth.

Isn’t that the clear message when our heroes die?

Heroes inspire us – whether they be parents, friends, first responders, or soldiers – but their presence among us can lull us into complacency. As long as there’s someone stronger and more visible to raise their voices or do the rescuing, we sit back and wait for them to do it. Sure, we have causes God has laid upon our hearts, spiritual and social burdens, a mission field to work. But we don’t see ourselves as capable enough to lead. We reserve that for savior figures.

This kind of thinking stunts the work God wants to do through his people. The Holy Spirit’s power lit a fire within the disciples in the Book of Acts. They had all kinds of fresh boldness and spiritual ambition because their hero died. The departure of Christ from the earth was the opportunity for the disciples to step into their strength.

So yes, while we need strong and humble leaders among us, we also need to be strong and humble leaders. If each of us would lead where we are, God can use us mightily as a force to redeem our broken world. We don’t have to reign over a whole kingdom like Wakanda. We just have to yield to the Spirit’s power within us forever.

If you love me, you will obey my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you. John 14.15-17

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