People are not naturally courageous. Ever since the fall of humanity, none of us has to work at being afraid – but we all have to work at being brave and having the courage to face our fears. Sometimes we adults think we have to teach kids not to fear because we believe they are afraid of the dark, high places, and monsters in the closet. But I think most of that is our own adult fear projected on kids. Actually, I think it is the other way around. Some of the bravest folks I have ever known are children. They do not understand near as much as we adults do, yet they conquer their fears every day by facing the world with courage. If you were to go to any children’s hospital today, I believe you would be amazed at the kind of courage you would find amongst kids. It seems to me that adults have a whole lot to learn about being brave because:
We have become far too sophisticated in hiding our fears and avoiding courage.
This is why the most repeated exhortation is all of Holy Scripture is to not be afraid. We all need courage to live life in the way that God wants it to be lived. Jesus had to remind his disciples to not be afraid; and, God the Father himself had to exhort the fearful followers of Jesus to have the courage to listen (Matthew 17:1-7). We all need courage to listen well to God the Father; to live by the words and ways of God the Son; and, to follow God the Holy Spirit wherever he prompts us to go.
We need the courage to love people without needing their kudos (John 2:23-25).
Jesus did not get carried away with his own press. Whether people responded to him by the hundreds, or whether they refused him altogether and tried to throw him off a cliff, Jesus was consistently always the same. He did not need people’s response or the lack of it to do his mission on this earth. He continually loved people and did not do things in order to get them to love him in return, like insecure and fearful people do.
The most read book in my library is The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. It was written five-hundred years ago by a Dutch priest who was training others in the ministry of Christ. The reason I keep coming back to that book again and again is that Thomas understood the need for the courage to love the unlovely. He understood that perfect love casts out fear.
This is what Thomas had to say about loving others: “We should not only love our brothers and sisters, but also not consider ourselves better than them. Instead, we should show compassion and acceptance to others. We want to have others strictly reprimanded for their offenses, but we will not be reprimanded ourselves. We are inclined to think the other person has too much freedom, but we ourselves will not put up with any restraint to our freedom. There must be rules for everyone else, but we must be given free rein. It is seldom that we consider our neighbor equally with ourselves. Yet:
If everyone was perfect, what would we have to endure for the love of God?
Thomas is always good for a solid spiritual slap to the sinful flesh. Hear him again: “Look at yourself and see how far you are from real love and humility. It is of no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people, for they are always well liked. And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those who agree with us…. However, in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing of suffering and contradictions, not in being free of them, for:
We cannot live in this world without adversity.
Those who can suffer well will enjoy the most peace, for such persons are brave, courageous, not afraid of pain, have Christ as their friend, and heaven as their reward.”
Imagine yourself, fully aware of the mission and vision God has placed in your heart to advance his kingdom in this world, yet held hostage to phobias, irrational worries, and destructive fears of failure, harm, or rejection.
If you and your church don’t fulfill the mission God assigned to you, who will?