Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts on Courage

I've been on a, thus far unfruitful, search for a devotional I wrote a few years ago.  While on that search I came across this piece.  

It's interesting to me to see where I was in 2006, when this was originally written.

Courage.  Generosity.  Loyalty.  These are virtues that ancient peoples held in high esteem.  In his book How The Irish Saved Civilization Thomas Cahill details the great impact that one man, Saint Patrick, had on an entire people.  According to Cahill, “…the Irish found Patrick admirable according to their own highest standards: his courage – his refusal to be afraid of them – would have impressed them immediately; and, as his mission lengthened into years and came to be seen clearly as a lifetime commitment, his steadfast loyalty and supernatural generosity must have moved them deeply.  For he had transmuted their pagan virtues of loyalty, courage and generosity into the Christian equivalents of faith, hope and charity.” 

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul describes the virtue of charity, also translated as love, and states that the greatest virtue is love.

It takes real courage to love someone, and it takes great loyalty to be faithful in any relationship.  In these modern times people are often selfish in their relationships.  Take, for instance, “the dating game”.  In their quest for romance, people go to great lengths to find that special someone who will make them feel loved and who they might possibly love in return.  But the foundation of those relationships is often very selfish. 

A person who goes into any sort of relationship with the goal of finding someone to make him or her feel good, or to fill some internal void, is using the other person to meet his or her own emotional and ego gratification needs.  In those situations it is more often about what a person can get out of a relationship than what a person is willing to put into a relationship.  Sometimes it’s mutual, nonetheless the underlying motive is selfish and the lie upon which those motives are built says “it’s all about me.”  The first sentence, in the first chapter, of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life categorically disagrees with this.  He states “It’s not about you.”

When motives are selfish, and people use each other, then people become toys to one another.  Toys, when they have been outgrown and become boring, are thrown away.  How many relationships have ended because people got tired and bored with each other?  How many have died because one or both of those involved were more focused on what they think the other person should be giving instead of on what they, themselves, were giving?  Whether due to malicious intent or simple insensitivity, people become disposable.  The inherent value of a person is demeaned until they are thrown into the recycle bin where perhaps someday somebody will hopefully come along and choose the disposable, dispossessed, rejected and unwanted.  And, thanks be to God, Somebody has.

The Bible says that while we were in our sin God loved us and sent His only begotten Son into the world to redeem us.  Scriptures, and the current blockbuster movie “The Passion of the Christ,” show us in agonizingly bloody detail, the incredibly high price that God paid for humankind.  Jesus sought out the lowly, the dispossessed, the rejected and the disposable.  By the life and sacrifice of Christ, God said not “it’s all about Me” but rather “it’s all about you.” 

Jesus was, and always is, other-focused.  His prayer in the Gospel of John, Chapter 17 verses 20-26, declares His desire for us experience the kind of oneness and love that He experienced.  We are told to love each other as He has loved us.  Throughout the Epistles we are given instruction on how to do this.  The Apostle Paul says “Be kindly affectionate to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another…” (Romans 12:10).  The Apostle Peter writes “…be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous…” and “…above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 3:8; 4:8).

By being commanded to consider the other person first, we are instructed to take the attitude that “it’s not all about me”. 

We are to love as Christ loves, and He gave up His life for us.  To live, and love, in the same manner as Christ takes incredible courage.  Loving selflessly means that we risk being thrown into the recycle bin by those with hardened hearts.  It requires great generosity.  If we are genuinely going to help someone else we have to be willing to step outside of our own small worlds to enter someone else’s world, where he or she is hurting and in need.   And finally, it requires enduring loyalty, first to Christ, and then to each other.  There is only One Person who ever loved perfectly and He was dreadfully mistreated.  If He was so mistreated then we can expect the same.  Without having made the decision to be loyal we won’t have what it takes to follow-through in being there for someone else.

We will never know the blessing of experiencing the answer to Christ’s prayer unless we make a committed decision to be loyal, live generously and courageously, and take the attitude “it’s NOT all about me.”   But, if we will choose to turn our backs on cowardice and selfishness then we will experience what Christ prayed we’d experience…the only kind of love that can ever fill the void within our souls.  Only through experientially knowing the kind of love that Christ has, and sharing that love with those around us, can the face of the world be changed…one person at a time.

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