If there is one thing that is tempting for all of us, it’s that we love putting ourselves in the place of the hero. It is so easy for us to consider that we are Christians, and then as we read the bible, we say that we must surely put ourselves on God’s side in every biblical account.
The problem with this is that we are ultimately saying that, “this is the way I would have acted.” The Scriptures constantly teach us that we only act in accordance with God’s truth and righteousness by his grace. When we acknowledge this, we start realizing two things. 1. Our biblical heroes were actually depraved sinners like us. And 2. Without the intervening grace of God in our lives, we too would not be the Israelites, but the Egyptians.
It’s so easy for us to forget that Abraham was an idolater, but God called him by grace into a glorious promise. Jacob was a sinful deceiver but was chosen by God’s grace over Esau. These are just two of the Old Testament patriarchs, and yet we could say such things about them all. As you start reading in Genesis, you very quickly learn that nobody is in the position of the hero except for God.
If God is the only hero in the bible (particularly Christ), then who are we to see any human take that mantle, particularly when we place ourselves in that position. Without God’s grace, we are Cain, not Abel. Without God’s grace, we are buried deep in flood waters while the ark floats above us. We are Abimelech. We are Egypt. We are the grumblers in the desert. We are Jericho. We are the Philistines. We are Jezebel. We are Ahab. We are Assyria and Babylon. We are Sanballat and Tobiah. We are Herod. We are the Pharisees throwing stones. We are the woman at the well. We are Ananias and Saphira. We are Pilate. We cry crucify him.
In Galatians 2, Paul recounts a time that he came to Antioch and opposed Peter for acting in contradiction to the gospel. Even in a situation where two apostles come head to head, we want to be Paul when we are actually Peter. Our prideful self-righteousness always places us in a position whereby we think we would be God pleasing heroes by our own works when in actual fact we are so often Christ denying hypocrites like Peter. Our self-righteous reading of Scripture places us in a position in which we lose sight of grace.