And we thought he was a hero. That’s what millions of Americans must have felt after watching last night’s expose on “60 Minutes” about Greg Mortenson. The celebrated philanthropist, motivational speaker and best-selling author heads Central Asia Institute, which promotes education, especially for girls, in the forbidding backcountry of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson established more than 140 schools in remote regions.
But maybe not, we now are hearing. Mortenson either invented or severely exaggerated some of his most poignant stories, according to former colleagues. He also allegedly used his non-profit organization as a personal ATM machine.
If so, he has let a lot of people down, not only school kids in Pakistan but devoted donors throughout the West. No less than President Barack Obama donated $100,000 from his Nobel Peace Prize award to Mortenson’s organization.
Now what? Where can we find real heroes?
How about Hebrews chapter 11? There we find the New Testament’s hall of fame, a list of men and women of genuine integrity to accompany their courageous exploits. The Bible describes them as people “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38). This doesn’t mean they didn’t have flaws and failures like the rest of us—the Bible itself chronicles them with almost brutal candor. Yet despite their shortcomings, the heroes of Hebrews 11 were fundamentally faithful.
Not all who call themselves Christians are like that. The sad fact is that believing in Jesus doesn’t make much of a difference in one’s life—if you consider one’s testimony the test of integrity. The world isn’t much impressed by religious talk unsupported by a life of selfless service for the Savior within a world in dire need of God’s compassionate grace.
So where does that leave you and me? On our knees, appropriately, praying that God will first cleanse our motives and then inspire us to serve as His ambassadors of mercy and truth in such at time as this.
It’s not about pursuing perfection, for its own sake. It’s about exuding Christ’s love and compassion, confessing our sins when we fall short. And we don’t have to climb a mountain in Pakistan to stake our claim to be a no-nonsense disciple of Jesus Christ. We can shine the light of God’s love—not so much with words as with deeds—right in our workplace or classroom and most of all, our living room.