Words have definitions and ideas have consequences. When definitions of words are no longer static and dependable, the consequences to the culture can be unnerving, unfortunate, and detrimental to society.

Over the past 2 years, at the risk of their own health, doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel have cared for those suffering the effects of a dangerous virus. We don’t know their names, but we call them heroes; and, they are heroes.

Edward C. Byers is a retired Navy Seal who, at great risk to his own life, saved the life of a civilian hostage in Afghanistan along with several of his own team members. For this, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Most have never heard his name. He’s called a hero, because he is a hero.

In India, in the midst of this dangerous pandemic, a Christian man named Sandeep knew of the desperate needs of people living in surrounding villages. Risking his own health, he traveled to a remote village where people hadn’t eaten in three days and provided them with food and other necessities. Sandeep was faithful to love his neighbors, no matter the cost, for the opportunity to meet their needs and tell them about Jesus. Very few among us know his name. Call Sandeep a hero, because he is a hero. 

Everyday, police, firemen, and EMTs charge straight into dangerous situations to save and protect the rest of us from harm. Rightly, they are called heroes.

In 1st Century AD, a innocent man suffered the most violent form of execution ever devised by mankind in order to satisfy the wrath of God and keep us from paying for our own wickedness. As we read in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB95). Those of us who know Him call Him Lord. He’s our hero.

A hero is someone who performs acts of tremendous bravery in disregard for their own safety or well-being. Most often their names do not appear in news stories. We don’t fawn over them while their drama unfolds on TV, or listen to talking heads gush over them.

The big story coming from the Tokyo Olympics this week, is about Simone Biles–perhaps the greatest gymnast in history. She stepped out of competition due to a mental condition called, the “twisties”. Other gymnasts will tell you the condition is very real and very dangerous. Later, she was able to make adjustments and return to competition, winning the bronze medal on the balance beam. We all know her name. People call her a hero. Is she?

Simone Biles is a world-class athlete competing on the world stage. She’s garnering well-deserved praise from all corners for her accomplishments. Millions have enjoyed watching her do what she does, and she’s arguably better than anyone else in the world at it. She’ll return home to parades in her honor. She’ll go on Oprah telling her story to adoring fans. Is she a hero? Whose life did she save at great risk to her own? When we lower the bar of heroism the word no longer means anything.

Words have definitions and ideas have consequences.