The Mother of all Virtues
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point…A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful until it became risky,” C.S. Lewis
What will you undertake this coming year that will require courage?
God's people have always been called to bravery. Obeying God, especially when it's to our own disadvantage, is the crux of the Christian life. Scripture tells multiple stories of those who demonstrated true bravery in the context of their times.
In Joshua 1:1-9, God instructed Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land, their inheritance as His people. In this passage God directed them to “be strong and courageous” three times, promising that He would never leave them. The Israelites had a daunting challenge – going to war with the inhabitants of the land who were fierce adversaries. They were terrified these enemies (see Numbers 13) yet God promised them (and many others throughout scripture) repeatedly to not be afraid because He would be with them. Courage is faith and fearlessness.
Due to their repeated disobedience and wickedness, God allowed the Babylonians and Assyrians to take the Israelites into captivity for approximately seventy years (Jeremiah 29:4). Psalm 137 was the national lament in response to such a devastating disaster. “How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?” Yet many of the Jews defied their captors and persevered in their worship of Yahweh, still believing in His goodness and His promises, even in the most hostile of cultures. The stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego testify to their dogged faithfulness and God's miraculous provision. Courage demonstrates trust.
First century believers also answered the call to live as “aliens and strangers” in the land, risking their very lives for the Gospel (1 Peter 2:11-12). Followers of Jesus faced intense persecution and often death due to their insistence that there was One Lord. Jesus had repeatedly taught that the Kingdom of God was not a political or even religious system. He said to the Pharisees, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst...” (Luke 17:20-21). This conflict is a dominant theme in the New Testament and we are repeatedly exhorted to persevere and be courageous, echoing numerous Old Testament passages with similar language. Courage takes risks.
But there is even another layer to the call to be brave. We all have private battles that the Spirit nudges us to confront as we seek to be conformed to the image of Christ.
It takes courage to do the hard work in breaking a generational chain of family dysfunction.
It takes courage to admit deep seated jealousies and resentments.
It takes courage to genuinely forgive and let go of the past. It's much easier to leave wounds festering, rather than seeking healing. But if we truly desire God's best, then our bravery will require perseverance and time.
Yes, there are places much more comfortable for believer to live than others, where the culture is fairly friendly to our faith. But authentic Christianity will always push against the flow of the world. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned the world order upside down. Humility, meekness, justice, mercy, purity, peace – these are qualities of the Spirit that can be bravely demonstrated in even the most unwelcoming of circumstances, whether in a third world culture, or in the southern USA. And as Lewis pointed out, Kingdom minded lives require us to be courageous in living ALL biblical principles. May God give us the grace to do so.