“Any Christian who is not a hero is a pig.”
I suspect that when Leon Bloy wrote that famous line, he was not thinking of himself as a hero. Perhaps the other one. If so, it might have been of some comfort to him to discover that actually there are no heroes in the kingdom of God.
At least Jesus didn’t seem to think so. That is, if “hero” is taken in its common sense: a great person who we can look to as a model and source of hope. Jesus resisted even being called “good” himself. “Why do you call me good?” he said. “No one is good but God alone.” (Mk 10.18) And Jesus taught his followers to respond the same way. Should they expect admiration for living the life he taught them?
“Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” (Lk 17.9-10)Jesus turned our attention away from heroes, people we’re inclined to admire, and away from the admiration others might have for us, and directed our attention towards God. No one is good but God alone. You have only done what you were ordered to do. It is not the servant but the master who is the source of any goodness, and the source of hope. Later, Jesus used imagery of vine and branches to present this even more clearly:
“Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15.4-5)
It is God who is good, and who brings good into the world. Not heroic people. The apostle Paul taught the same thing when some in the early church started choosing heroes for themselves:
When one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Cor 3.4-7)God even intentionally chose servants who were not great, wrote Paul, not admirable, not heroic:
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1.27-31)
What matters is not human greatness or heroism. Those are more of a distraction and temptation than a help to the followers of Jesus. What matters is the God who is the source of goodness and life. To live as a child of his kingdom, inspired by God in our actions big and small, noticed or unnoticed, this is all that matters.
When Jesus was asked about John the baptizer, he acknowledged that John was a hero of his time: “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John.”
“Yet,” said Jesus, “the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Lk 7.28)