In the United States we imagine our heroes and leaders as handsome, muscular, Hollywood types larger than life! But when real heroes come along few match our mental expectations. On the other hand, God takes the exact opposite approach when selecting leaders and heroes by totally ignoring the outward appearance. There's an excellent comparison between the leadership qualities valued by men versus those valued by God in the Old Testament. God instructs Samuel to choose a King of Israel from the sons of Jesse. Samuel is to review Jesse's sons and God will tell him which one is to be anointed king.
The first to be reviewed was Eliab who was tall and impressive. He looked like a King! But the Lord did not choose him. Jesse continued to parade nine more of his sons past Samuel but God chose none of them. Samuel asked if there were any others. Only the youngest remained. Jesse had not even considered him as a possibility so he was still out in the pasture tending sheep. Samuel requested that the youngster be fetched from his work. Although the youngest son was not attractive or kingly to look at, the Lord told Samuel, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he." So the son of Jesse who was thought unworthy of even consideration became one of the greatest Kings of Israel. The Jews still call Jerusalem the City of David!
With our sophistication today would we have chosen David as the first choice? Absolutely not! We always consider physical appearance before considering character. Take me for example. Being born white and raised in the South, I was taught Martin Luther King Jr. was an outside agitator at best. Sadly, I believed what I was taught. Then I read his "I Have A Dream" speech. I was wrong! Dr. King was a very brave hero fighting for a just cause.
Consider this sentence from Dr. King's speech, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Did someone know that men judge others by physical appearance over character three thousand years ago?
Why does outward appearance not matter to God when selecting those to fulfill important missions? The Apostle Paul understood the answer to that question through personal experience. When God chose Paul to spread the gospel to the Gentiles, He actually gave Paul a "thorn in the flesh":
Paul was so troubled by this thorn in the flesh that he prayed to God three times asking for it to be removed:
Following God's explanation, Paul understood that his weakness made him a stronger witness for Jesus! Thus he came to actually take pleasure in his infirmities. He realized that God made him weak so that others would see what God could accomplish through such a weak person! Regardless of how weak due to physical or mental problems, we are all here for a reason. Never, ever believe you are too weak to fulfill your mission! The weaker you are, the more spectacular your accomplishment will be for God's glory.
So God looks at the heart or character as opposed to the outward physical appearance which is so important to mankind. Character is knowing the right thing to do, then doing it when the opportunity presents itself regardless of the consequences. Consider the single parent, who must care for the children and toil for a living seven days a week with little or no help and encouragement. It would be very easy and tempting to momentarily escape into that bottle of booze, or that pill, or that illegal drug. But some resist the temptation, knowing it would drag the children down. That takes character!
Consider the millions in our nation's military. Many may have originally signed up simply for the educational benefits. Now they find themselves locked in a war! Yet they willingly accept their duty even though their lives are in danger and they would rather be somewhere else. They're all heroes.
Thousands of grave markers at Arlington National Cemetery are identical in design. No one can determine the race or other circumstances of the person buried in a particular grave from the headstone. All who reach this point have finally achieved equality. All have served their countrymen honorably and bravely. All are heroes.
The United States is a nation created by and for immigrants. Upon seeing real American heroes, we instantly recognize that their one common quality is not anything physical, but something originating from within. Let's call it character and look at some of our past heroes:
On September 11, 2001, superintendent of construction Pablo Ortiz searched for survivors on the eighty-eighth floor of the north World Trade Tower; shouting into all areas for anyone present. After directing rescued groups to safe passage down a clear stair well he ascended to the next floor, intending to locate all survivors. He was still going up as the tower came down. I never knew Mr. Ortiz. His name indicates his family origins were possibly Hispanic. If that is the case, some might have called him a wetback or spic. I call him a hero.
That same day, passengers aboard flight 93 prevented their hijackers from crashing that plane into another American landmark. One leader in this effort was an admitted homosexual. Some might have called him a faggot or queer. I call him a hero.
An American Indian named Ira Hayes helped raise the flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II. He became an alcoholic and died in a ditch. Some might have called him a drunken Indian. I call him a hero.
The most decorated American military unit during World War II was the 442D Regimental Combat Team composed of Japanese Americans, many from American internment camps! The 442D fought with great distinction in the European campaign, and their ranks included twenty-one Medal of Honor recipients. This occurred during a time when anything labelled Japanese was despised in the United States. That takes character!
Similarly, the famous Tuskegee Airmen, despite suffering intense discrimination, never had a bomber they were escorting shot down by enemy aircraft. All of them overcame adversity to become heroes!
Despite the beliefs of many men that a woman's place was in the home, much of the military hardware which made the victories in World War II possible was produced by women. All unsung heroines!
It seems that our heroes are as diverse as our population, and that should be expected. Today, our diversity hurts us in our war on terror. Enemies can easily blend in with us because of our diversity. That said, our diversity remains our greatest strength! Whether black, white, yellow, brown, red, or any possible combination of colors we are all Americans first. Likewise, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, or whatever we believe; we are all Americans first. That is our strength and what makes us unique in all the world! We are all equally American, and our future heroes could be any of us!