In Praise of a Christian Hero
In the wake of 9/11, the word "hero" took a more prominent place in our national lexicon. Justifiably, firefighters who risked death to save lives and 9/11 hostages who retook one of the flights at their own peril were deemed heroes.
With the renewed prominence of the idea of "heroism" in our conversation, I think it is appropriate to consider what it would mean to be a Christian hero. By "Christian hero," I don't mean to suggest a hero who is also a Christian. I intend the term to signify one who is a hero in a Christian way.
A Christian hero is one who follows Jesus in a truly extraordinary way: one whose application of Christian ideals is worthy of admiration and emulation. Specifically, I contend that a Christian hero is one who is actually willing to follow Jesus' fundamental command, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to its utmost.
If we were to truly love our neighbors as ourselves, what would that require? The answer is much more radical than most Christians are willing to let themselves see. Christine Belue, a 32-year-old legal assistant from Chicago, provides an example.
Last month, Belue donated her kidney to a complete stranger who was in need of a transplant. Belue met Sandra Gross for the first time at a party. In her first conversation with Gross, Belue learned that she was waiting for a transplant for her failing kidney. Upon hearing of Gross's situation, Belue immediately asked her what her blood type was. When she learned that they were both O-positive, Belue agreed on the spot to give Gross her kidney if they were a match.
Gross "wasn't sure if she was really serious," but Belue persisted, undergoing a battery of compatibility tests. "The next thing I knew she called me and said the surgery is set for July 6," said Gross.
"I'm still in shock that somebody is just, you know, so nice and so thoughtful to do something like this. I feel sometimes that I owe her everything, you know, because she just -- she is a thoughtful person like that and didn't know me. Really it was a stranger, but now I have a friend for life," Gross said.
Belue says she has no regrets about her decision and encourages others to consider live organ donations.
If we do not do what Belue has done, can we really say that we have loved our neighbors as ourselves?
Belue's story should leave us with a renewed appreciation of the radicalness of Jesus' teaching, with a humbling realization of our own imperfection, and with an uplifting sense of humans' capacity for good.