A painting of Christopher Columbus with Native Americans in “the New World”

A painting of Christopher Columbus with Native Americans in “the New World”

A portrait of Christopher Columbus. The explorer has lost honor among many.

A portrait of Christopher Columbus. The explorer has lost honor among many.

A replica of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ head ship

A replica of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ head ship

No Perfect Heroes

Posted: September 1, 2020

Why do we give honor to Christopher Columbus? He was brave. He was daring. He had a big idea. Before Mr. Columbus, sailors took a long journey around Africa to trade with Asia. Mr. Columbus wanted to shorten the trip. His plan? Sail west around the world. He thought he would land in Asia this way. He stepped onshore in the Americas instead.

Once Mr. Columbus began exploring, more voyagers followed him. They found new lands and sources of trade. A relationship grew between Europe and the Americas. It has a nickname: the Columbian Exchange. Europeans brought animals such as horses, pigs, cattle, goats, and sheep to the Americas. Native Americans benefitted from farming these animals. Explorers to the Americas sent corn, potatoes, peanuts, and pumpkins over the sea to Europe. That began a trade of priceless gifts between the two sides of the world. But the groups shared something else too: illnesses. Measles, smallpox, influenza, mumps, typhus, whooping cough. . . . These foreign sicknesses wiped out Native Americans.

Today, Christopher Columbus has lost honor among many. That’s because the Columbian Exchange was sadly also a trade of people. Europeans ruled over Native Americans, sometimes cruelly. They sold many around the world as slaves.

No person can live perfectly—not even a historical “hero.” You learn that quickly when reading the Bible. Start at the beginning with Adam and Eve. Move on to Abraham and Sarah. Skip ahead to King David. All these people sinned. But the Bible also tells of God's steadfast love and forgiveness. He has chosen to use fallen and outright sinful people for good.

Flip toward the end of the Bible. The author of Hebrews remembers many sinful people. But they are all also people of faith. God sees them as righteous. Why? Because His perfect Son Jesus paid for all sin on the cross. He used their lives for His purposes because their trust was in Him—not in their own perfect behavior.