The Authentic Christian is Brave.

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Often, to stand for what is right involves a costly risk. It takes courage to walk the path of integrity.

Ruby Bridges, at six years old, was the first and for a while, the only black child, who walked alone along a street of hostile crowd to attend an empty, white New Orleans school. Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist from Harvard went down to interview Ruby’s mother to find out what made children like her courageous. The mother said, “There’s a lot of people who talk about being good, and a lot of people who argue about what’s good and what’s not good, but there were others who ‘just put their lives on the line for what’s right.’” (Taken from Lewis B. Smedes, A Life of Distinction, 32.)

Courage comes from the French word, Coeur, which means “heart.” Just as discernment is found in the heart, so is courage. While discernment is wisdom of the heart, courage is power of the heart. Smedes observed courageous people will do what they have to do. Ruby could have stayed home. The other black children could have walked with her. Courage differentiates and determines persons of integrity.

In the Bible, Moses encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous. Being strong and brave means to go and act on a cause. Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance.” (Deut. 31:7)

David charged Solomon, “Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act.” (1 Chron. 28:10) Further, the King urged his son, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chron. 28:20)

The call to Joshua and Solomon for courage stands steady on the promises of God. The Lord is faithful to His word. He has sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He will bring them into the Promised Land. Joshua received a pledge and guarantee for his bravery. God told David that his son, Solomon would build His temple. Solomon had God’s providence and provisions to support his act of courage.

God’s presence enables His children to live courageously. He said to Joshua, “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) David assured Solomon, “For the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you.” Courage calls us to march forward and act because there is a cloud of witnesses who traversed the same path before us. We are assured, “As I have been with Moses,” and again, “the Lord God, my God” – the God of Moses and the Lord God of David is with us.

A life of integrity is standing alone on the path of righteousness, even when all others say otherwise. Biblical narratives illustrate courageous men and women of old who risked their lives in their commitment to live righteously before God.

Joseph was thrown in prison; Daniel, in the lion’s den; Jeremiah, in the pit to starve. Noah lived in a generation of utter evil. Genesis 6:9 told us Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. Rahab hid the Hebrew spies at the threat of death. Ruth followed her mother-in-law into a foreign land. Mary risked shame and abandonment by her fiancé when she obeyed to carry the Holy One in her womb.

Standing for what is right is an act of courage. It takes bold integrity to say “No” to what is wrong, even when the whole crowd is saying “Yes.”
Exodus 23:2 says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”

Peer pressure is an issue not only for adolescents or young people struggling for acceptance in school. How often do we need to go against the “majority” in our workplace, in church, among friends to fight for the people in the “minority” who cannot speak for themselves? What about the lone black child walking to a white school, and all the Davids facing Goliaths?

How do we conduct business with integrity? What do we do when the “norm” is to “undervalue property” to avoid paying large amounts of taxes? How do we say “No” to a police officer asking for “coffee change” to avoid the inconvenience of being issued a traffic violation ticket?

Philosophers called this “aggressive courage.” To act with aggressive courage is to risk dying with a passion for living. (Smedes, 36) G.K. Chesterton observed the paradox of courage as “a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die; seeking life with a furious indifference to it; desiring life like water and drinking death like wine.” (Smedes, 3).

There is a second expression of courage. People show this courage when they risk living. How? They persevere. The apostle, Paul called this form of courage “patience.” Plato called it “endurance.” Aquinas spoke of it as “passive courage.” Synonymous to perseverance, patience, and endurance is commitment. Just as courage is about counting on God’s faithfulness, it is also about our faithfulness. (I can count on God, but can God count on me?”)

Smedes quipped, “When sorrows whisper that living is a bigger burden than we can bear, it takes courage to look trouble full in the face and affirm our lives in spite of it.” (Ibid). For me, this is committed courage or courageous commitment.

Job said “If I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” (Job 23:8-12)

The authentic Christian is courageously committed to God even when He cannot be seen. Living a life of integrity means facing life and death with courageous passion in fortitude, patience, and endurance. Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

As I observe my parents and in-laws growing older, I am learning that “it takes courage to celebrate life, while numbering our days.” The Chinese values longevity. Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may present unto you a heart of wisdom.” (Psa. 90:12).

In Christmas, 2014, I reflected on longevity. As I watched my 90 year- old mother-in-law live her life, I observed: A life spent lying on the sick bed is a difficult life. A life devoid of the company of spouse and peers is a lonely life. A life without appreciation for the seconds, minutes, and hours ticking away because of a sense of uselessness and helplessness is a meaningless life.

But Christians, by God’s grace, can age graciously with courage. In our physical body, limited by our mortality, and in our earthly soul, constrained by our sinful morality, longevity is nowhere near eternity. Longevity, no matter how much extended, still has an end. What, then, comes after? That is all that matters.

To live a long life with courage calls for examining the future, while remembering the past. How do we celebrate life with courage? Celebrate… ahh, this word brings to mind, joy! To celebrate is to rejoice, to praise, and commemorate a life of courage, of passion, of integrity, well lived.

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