By Daniel Stewart
“Who are you not to be great?” the man asks, stepping from a wrecked car, the hood riddled with arrows. I’d never seen this commercial before and my interest was peaked. Greatness! Yes! How seldom do we speak of this today! So easily distracted by blinking lights and gadgets, we forget that greatness is within our reach! But who would pay the advertisement costs to remind us of our birthright? Some travel company? A school? A self-interested venture capitalist?
The man on the screen left the car and walked down a ruined street as a strange group of people began to follow him while buildings crumbled in the background. Looking at the camera, he went on, “You, with the imagination of a brilliant child and the powers of an ancient god. Who are you to be ordinary? You, who can rescind life or raise the dead. Who are you to be afraid? You, who can serve as judge and jury while hoarding infinite lives.”
My skepticism gave way to confusion. Was this a strange credit card commercial? A new movie’s attempt to start a viral campaign?
The speech finished, “Who are you to deny greatness? To deny greatness is to deny the world. And we will not be denied.” The man raised his arms and the camera panned up and out, revealing a battlefield filled with robots, aliens, assassins, superheroes, pirates, and soldiers. I was thoroughly lost but entranced. The man leapt into the fray as the camera continued to zoom out. As a dragon flew by and a spaceship fired its weapons, a quiet, computer generated voice spoke, “Playstation.”
Playstation. A video game console. I laughed. I’m not sure if the commercial was intended to be funny or not. Because there’s almost nothing less relevant to human greatness than playing video games. On a ranking of the accomplishments of mankind, doing well at a video game should rank somewhere above tying one’s shoes in the morning but below knitting an ugly pot holder. Of course, today, many games have compelling stories and beautiful graphics, so the making of these games could certainly count toward human achievement. But simply playing video games? Not so much.
We are mankind! Homo Sapiens! Capable of fantastic feats of strength, astonishing displays of endurance, incredible works of beauty, and the construction of monuments to last millennia! We can store vast amounts of knowledge, communicate across the globe, and plunge into the mysteries of the world around us!
This is certainly a more reasonable definition of greatness than the one offered by Playstation. And, yet…Christianity turns even this on its head. Paul says that even if we can speak in the tongues of angels, understand all knowledge, and move mountains, we are nothing if we do not love. Love! The greatest of the virtues! Love! The greatest kind in which we lay down our lives!
Of course, in our culture of sentimentalism and cheap romanticism, the impact of this exhortation is often lost. Which is especially unfortunate since this greatness is not just something God offers us but the very purpose we were made for and to which we are called daily.
We are children of God! Made in the image of the LORD who is great and greatly to be praised. So, we too must be MADE for greatness! And Christ came not just to forgive sins but to call us to follow him, to bid us come and die, to make us like himself.
But how often I settle for so much less. Christ offers me the strength to sacrifice all my desires and love my wife and children completely. But how often I settle for my unremarkable selfishness and mundane conditional affection. Christ offers me the ability to see others through his eyes of compassion, to care for those around me with the love of God. But how often am I satisfied instead with my mediocre snark and ordinary cynicism.
I thought back to the commercial. That man was right! Well, he WOULD have been right had he not been talking about video games.
Who are you to be ordinary? Who are you to deny greatness? You, who were made to be like Christ and love in radical ways. You, who were called by Christ to follow him past the grave and to resurrection. To deny this calling would be to deny your creation, to deny your purpose, to deny God, and to deny love. And love will not be denied.
Daniel is married to Haley and lives on their little urban homestead with their three small children. He works full-time away from home and maintains their occasionally fruitful garden and always ornery flock of chickens. He enjoys running and knows way too much about Star Wars.