- The Ruin of Freedom Demands the Rise of Courage
- The Ruin of Freedom Demands the Rise of Courage, part 2
The previous post included a quotation from Martin Luther King:
Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.
Note King’s alternatives:
– Cowardice asks, Is it safe?
– Expediency asks, Is it politic?
– Vanity asks, Is it popular?
– Conscience asks, Is it right?
Which of these questions do you tend to ask?
I admit I’m too often afraid to say what would politically incorrect. So for expedience, I stay silent. Often, I don’t want to offend, maybe because I want to be liked! Publically asking, Is it right? can lead to trouble.
Dr. King continues:
Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it … . But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.
The culture of the West today asks is it safe, is it politically correct, and is it popular. If it is then you move forward. The question of conscience—Is it right?—is seldom asked. Why? Because we live in a world shaped by relativism. Truth and morals are relative. There is no place in the modern culture for the question Is it right? If there is no moral framework, then there are no issues! You may simply say and do what is expedient, what feels good, what does not challenge the culture.
The church should know better and be better than this. We are concerned with producing safe Christians; what is needed today is courageous Christians.
Wanted: courageous Christians
Should we play it safe and go with the flow of modern culture? In the past many Christians adopted the naturalistic paradigm of the modern world and began to redefine everything about the church. These Christians have been known as liberals. But given today’s pressure from fundamentalist atheists, too many evangelical and charismatic Christians are accommodating the same way their more liberal brethren did in the past. They are shifting at the level of principle. They are “evolving,” e.g. accepting the re-definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Dr. King’s understanding is spot on: when we are repressed by fear and capitulate to it, we surrender to our circumstances. This is cowardice!
We need courageous Christians. We need Christians who will seek what is right and take a principled stand, despite their fears. We need Christians who will move forward despite the circumstances and the consequences. My Australian friend, Letitia Shelton, has said it so well: “There seems to be something lacking in the church these days. We have done a great job at producing nice Christians, rather than dangerous Christians full of courage, ready to take risks.”
Moses’ call in Deuteronomy 31:6-7 was “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.” We are to be courageous and strong in spite of our fears. Courage does not eliminate fear, it conquers it.
Courage is the cardinal virtue. As C.S. Lewis conveyed in The Screwtape Letters, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”
Courage has a corresponding vice: cowardice. Cowardice leaves us dominated by our fears, by our desire for comfort and personal peace.
Courage acknowledges that some things more important than avoiding our fears. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ manifested this virtue. Before he went to the cross, in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord needed courage to overcome the fear of death. He indeed conquered the fear of death in Gethsemane, and then conquered death itself at the resurrection. What was more important to him than avoiding the fear of death? It was his love for his Father, his desire to do his Father’s will. It was his love for us that drove him to the cross.
We who live in Christ on this side of the cross and the resurrection need no longer live in the fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 answers the question “Why did Jesus die?”
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV
He died to destroy the devil, the one who had power over death. He died to rescue we who live each day in fear of dying. The gift of life eternal, the believer’s birthright, should lead us to live in the virtue of courage. Jesus died, not to spare us from suffering, but to free us for suffering. This reality creates a space to live a life of courage.
While many business, political and religious leaders cringe before the pressure of political correctness, many common Christians are exhibiting immense courage. One example is Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s flowers in Richland, Washington. Stutzman is fighting for religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
Stutzman is being stripped of her religious freedom
The modern doctrine of “tolerance” requires tolerance of everything except moral absolutes. Stutzman is a follower of Jesus Christ who understands that marriage is a sacred institution, established by God between a man and a woman. Such belief is deemed intolerant. She is being stripped of her religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson wants to force her assent to postmodern belief that people have the right to define themselves sexually and to re-define marriage. If she refuses to bend to the pressure of culture and the threat of the state, Stutzman could lose not only her business, but her home as well.
To witness what courage looks like today, meet Barronelle Stutzman. Or see the story produced by Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization defending Stutzman against the coercion of the state.
- Darrow Miller
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JonMay 1, 2015 - 3:18 pm