Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Hero In Our Midst

Alvin Ung, iBridge article
February 7, 2003

The Bible tells us to listen carefully to wise counsel. "He who walks with the wise grows wise," says the writer of Proverbs. That’s why, when I arrived at Regent College in Vancouver, I signed up for J.I. Packer’s class immediately.

Jim Packer, 77, is best known for Knowing God, a book which has sold more than three million copies. He has written more than a hundred other books. Teacher, scholar and pastor, Packer has brought about a renaissance in Christian thinking. He has weighed in on just about every major discussion on both sides of the Atlantic, and continues to do so. But what strikes me most is how he consistently strives to honor God.

A Holy Encounter

My wife and I didn’t see Packer during our first few days at Regent. Then one gray morning (and there are many such mornings in Vancouver), an old man in a khaki trench-coat strode through the frontdoors. Huey Fern spotted him.

“Look, it’s J. I. Packer!” a student gasped. Those who were reading looked up. The talking stopped. Heads swiveled and a silence fell across the atrium as people craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the world-famous theologian. He had white wisps of hair on his sloping forehead which contrasted sharply against a tweed jacket and dark green pants.

He loped across the atrium, shoulders hunched from carrying a sheaf of notes in one hand and a battered leather briefcase in the other. As quickly as he appeared, he disappeared. The students at Regent call such encounters "a holy moment."

The Gift of God’s Presence

It amazes me how one man can evoke such a powerful sense of God’s presence. It’s not hero worship. While his works may line bookshelves and fill our church libraries, it is the impact he has made on countless Christians that sets him apart. He has transformed many, simply by pursuing the knowledge of God all his life, and then pointing the way for others to follow.

“The supreme gift that anyone can give another is to help that person live life more aware of the presence of God,” writes David Benner in Sacred Companions. “Sacred companions help us remember that this is our Father’s world. They help us hear his voice, be aware of his presence and see his footprints as we walk through life. In doing so, they make the journey sacred.”

Dr. Packer isn’t the only one who can help us be more aware of God. We are surrounded by many such people. I call them ordinary heroes. They aren’t always larger than life, the way Dr. Packer may appear to be, but they are certainly people who have demonstrated God’s love.

Connecting with Ordinary Heroes

In my column, Ordinary Heroes, I will profile ten people – young and old, broken and saintly – who have impacted the lives of many people. In conversations with them, my heart is stirred and God is present in our exchanges. They inspire me. They have changed my life. And most of all they have connected with me.

These heroes aren’t perfect. They’ve made mistakes and continue to struggle with temptation. I hope that as I write about their lives, you may identify with them. I hope that we find courage and hope from the living stories that God has authored.

The apostle John says that we have met God when we encounter those love God and love us: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us.”

Gordon T. Smith, twenty-first century theologian and author of Courage and Calling, puts it differently:

“God is only God in communion, and the bond is made of love ... Our capacity to love God and one another – to live as interconnected beings – is a primary dynamic of who we are, reflecting God's image.”

I pray that God will fill our hunger for friendships and human connections. May we find an intimacy that reflects the love and completeness in God himself.


1. Is there someone in your life that you look up to?
2. What are the qualities/strengths in him/her that you admire? How do these strengths reflect your own desire to grow?
3. Take a moment today to thank your hero. Write an email or a letter, or pick up the phone to tell the person how he/she has made a difference in your life.

No comments: