One of my favorite characters from The Hobbit is Bard. His character in the movie is not quite like the character I enjoy from the book, in part because I don’t recall him being a family man. He was more of a loner, and Tolkein describes him as “grave.”
When the people of Laketown see light coming from the Lonely Mountain, they begin getting excited—“The forges under the mountain have been relit!” they say, thinking that wealth and prosperity are on the horizon. But Bard sees a red horizon, not a golden one. He appears to be the only one who remembers that the fires under the mountain are more likely the workings of a dragon than the workings of the dwarf king.
Bard’s call to arms go almost unheeded as he’s ridiculed for being a spoil sport, a glass-half-empty naysayer who has nothing productive to bring to the conversation. But Bard was right. Bard was vindicated by his vigilance and it’s only because of him that… well… if you’ve never read the book and are waiting to see the movie, I won’t ruin it for you. But you really ought to read the book.
We need grave people like Bard. Grave people understand harmony is an illusion if not coupled with truth, and discernment must come before optimism. Grave people can be hopeful so long as their hope is grounded in reality.
The Old Testament prophets were like Bard. When people flocked to hear messages of “Peace, peace,” Jeremiah warned of coming judgment:
Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.
—Jeremiah 14:13-14, ESV
Paul, too, was like Bard when he said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” (2 Timothy 3:12-13).
Grave Christians are valuable members of the church. They are marked by hope in Christ, not hope in a happy turn of circumstances or the power of positive thinking. They see evil in the world and warn against it. They speak against foolishness, empty promises, and vain optimism. When things go bad, when persecution comes or people fail us, they are the ones who stand firm and provide leadership and direction to go forward. Thank God for the Bards in your church.