Most of us remember the story from our childhood… the noble outlaw Robin Hood and his gang fighting for justice against the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin and company would ambush unsuspecting folks of wealth and power in Sherwood Forest and steal all they had if they proved to be dishonest and greedy and conniving. The gang (sorry I just can’t bring myself to refer to them as ‘Merry Men’), who were made up of common folk on the wrong side of the oppressive and self-serving laws of the rich and powerful, would then take their spoils and give it those in need: the starving, the destitute, the needy. Further, they displayed a remarkable code of honor: care for women, commitment to protect honest folk, and to be a voice and presence for justice.
The whole thing is really quite remarkable… here they are, heroes, with Robin Hood at the head… and they are considered outlaws, but loved by many as their stories are told and retold again and again since the 1200’s. Don’t miss the irony… they are OUTLAWS but express a commitment to mercy, honesty and justice. The Sheriff and the clergy and the wealthy folks (the pillars of society) are, in the stories, the authorities… THE LAW. And these folks express a commitment to treachery, oppression, selfish criminalism, and exploitation.
It all just goes to show that being an ‘outlaw’ means nothing more than being ‘outside the law’ of those in power… whether right or wrong. So, it stands to reason that being a considered a hero must tap into a higher, more universal set of priorities and values, than can merely be legislated by the rich and powerful (i.e. one can be a hero AND an outlaw), and in fact, many of our folklore heroes are just that.
The Gospel of Jesus is like that. Over and over again he makes this point (Mark 10:42-44):
You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.