What is courage? According to the dictionaries courage, or bravery, is the ability to something which frightens one. It is the mental and moral willingness to act on one’s beliefs despite danger, difficulty or disapproval.
It’s important to note individuals who act bravely or exhibit courage aren’t necessarily moral or virtuous. Definitions of morality and virtuousness are subjective and often fluid. These traits are subject to change by the “spirit of the age” and cultural-diversity trends.
A footballer lauded for courageous on-field exploits will lose honor if it emerges that he is a serial rapist. The 9/11 terrorists would have drawn on courage based upon their convictions to fly the planes into the Towers. They were lauded by their Islamic sympathizers. Likewise, western sympathizers often re-imagine terrorists as courageous freedom fighters. Others see them as murderers.
It might take courage for a pregnant girl to walk through a line of pro-life protestors to get to that clinic. But it also takes courage to bring the gospel to that hurting girl against the shouts of the pro-choice community. It takes courage to rob a bank.
So, we can see that courage can be misguided, depending upon our point of view. We all want to be considered courageous. It is a trait found in books and sons and which society admires. But as we’ve seen, it is also up for interpretation.
Is there some standard of courage which Christians should strive after?
Recently, Religion News Service writer Jonathan Merritt defended Jen Hatmaker amidst strong evangelical criticism of her stance on LGBTQI+ and other issues. He said he’d take “courageous Jen Hatmaker over her cowardly critics any day.” Merritt wrote:
Hatmaker stated that if she found out one of her children were gay; she would love that child just the same. If an LGBT friend of Hatmaker’s got married, she said she would attend the wedding. And Hatmaker said she believed LGBT relationships could be holy.
Hatmaker is a popular author-speaker who identifies as evangelical, though she really is a progressive. One critic suggests her politics are influenced more by Leftism than theology. He also notes that Hatmaker’s “expansive” pro-life stance unfairly marginalizes anti-abortionists; which is a similar tactic Rachel Held Evans employs.
Denny Burk responded to Merritt and provided the proper context:
There are many voices within the North American evangelical movement that are turning away from what the church has always believed and confessed. Hatmaker is now among them. They are trying to tell people that sexual immorality is compatible with following Jesus. And they are asking the rest of the church to accept their point of view as within the orthodox stream.
Let’s not cast too much doubt on Hatmaker’s courage – even though she thinks herself a victim of unfair evangelical criticism.
However, it would be fair to say that in today’s pro-LGBTQ+ climate the cultural tide is against Bible believing Christians. People like Hatmaker enjoy predominant public, and even Christian approval. In contrast, consider former lesbian Rosaria Butterfield who was demonized by protestors when scheduled to speak at Wheaton College.
No doubt I’ll take some flak for saying this, but the difference in courage between Butterfield and Hatmaker is what motivates their choices. Only one of them can be biblically correct. The former changed her entire lifestyle and lost “everything but the dog” because she became convicted by God’s word. The latter is convicted by the culture and her feelings.
I’m reminded of Christians of yesteryear who were often persecuted and martyred for holding to the authority of God’s word, rather than the worldly church. Some ministers lost pastorates while others were exiled. They took John 15:18 and Philippians 3:8-14 to heart. That is the kind of courage which counts in eternity.
Scottish minister Robert Bruce was an example of someone who was exiled by King James, lost his inheritance and faced many difficulties, including an attempt on his life – all because of his courageous faith. His preaching is an inspiration to this day.
At the moment we can safely argue about LGBTQI+ issues etc. Those of us who disagree with the lifestyle might be ostracized or called names. Some have lost jobs because they don’t tow the LGBT narrative. Others have been taken to court over refusing to decorate a gay-wedding cake. While these are genuine hardships, it could get much worse in the future.
And let’s also remember that many Christians in other parts of the world are killed for their witness.
We already know that in the last eschatological seven years, a man will rise who demands worship or death. I don’t believe the church will be present then. Yet there’s no guarantee that, this side of the rapture, things won’t escalate to something similar.
How would we westerners respond to a hypothetical life or death decision regarding acknowledging that Allah and Yahweh are one and the same? What if we are forced to publicly renounce Christ on pain of death?
Defending the truth requires courage derived from faith in God’s holy word. This particular courage is devoid of pride, and it is supernatural in nature. Of ourselves we cannot do anything (Phil 4:13). I’m not a naturally courageous person, so I’m so glad it’s not all up to me.
Robert Bruce was able to bear all his difficulties because Christ was central to his life. He did nothing without seeking God in prayer first. It’s a lesson I’m trying to learn.
Finally there’s this:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:38-39
What a comforting thought!