The Courage to be Christian

It seems like every couple of years another deadly “plague” comes around and threatens to wipe out the planet. And everyone goes into full-on panic mode, which upsets me a little bit. First of all, because not once has anyone ever said, “Panicking would be really helpful right now.” Even in in-your-face-deadly, low-chance-of-survival situations like battle, the answer is always to keep a level head and NOT PANIC. And yet, every time a new disease comes around, the panic. Second of all, because nothing can turn decent humans into monsters faster than fear. It’s been in the news a lot this time around: how quickly people have become suspicious and hesitant to be around anyone who is or even looks remotely Chinese since the outbreak. When we become fearful it can quickly break down all of our cherished notions of human kindness and decency as we wrap ourselves in self-protection.

I couldn’t help but contrast this brouhaha with Jesus’s response to the leper in Mark.

Mark 1: 40 – 42 (ESV)

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

The most impacting bit of this section (to me, at least) is the phrase “he stretched out his hand and touched him.” I recently watched a show called The Chosen about Jesus’s ministry that portrayed this scene so well. Portrayed how utterly terrified Jesus’s disciples were of this leprous man. How, as he approached them, they recoiled, covered their faces, yelled at him to stay back. Portrayed how crazy they thought Jesus was as he moved toward the man instead of away from him. How they worried for his safety and tried to get him to turn away with them. Leprosy was a highly contagious disease, to the point that those who had it had to live outside the cities, distinguish themselves by their clothing so others could recognize them on sight and avoid them, and even cry “unclean” when they were around people. Simply put: everyone but Jesus was TERRIFIED. This scene left me with the very powerful impression of just how much courage it takes to be a Christian. Not just to call yourself a Christian, but to actually be, with your heart and soul and actions, a Christian. To have the courage to help the sick, even if it’s a risk to yourself. To wade into a situation that is over your head. To move onto an active volcano so you can help the people who have lost their homes. To comfort someone who is hurting even when you have absolutely no idea what to say. To stop and talk to a homeless person on the street when you’re not really sure if they might be dangerous. To go to a third-world country or a war zone or a tribe in the Amazon Rain Forest to make sure they have the chance to hear the Good News. It’s a courage that can only be born of love.

1 John 4: 18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” First and foremost, our courage is born of God’s love for us. As Jesus moved toward the leper, he had no fear for his own life because he knew without a doubt that his life was in his Father’s hands, and was sure that he was loved and protected. Second, our courage is born of the love that God enables us to have for others. Mark says Jesus was “moved with pity.” His deep compassion for the man wouldn’t allow him to walk past or draw back. He loved this man, and that love and compassion literally moved him – compelled him into action. Only this agape love of God is powerful enough to give us the strength and courage to confront genuinely terrifying situations with a consideration for others above consideration for self. It’s called sacrificial love, and it’s scary. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t part of the deal, but then I remember where I’d be without the sacrificial love of Christ. So instead, I thank God for sacrificial love. Especially since it is, in fact, this very same love that can give me the courage it takes to be Christian.

8 thoughts on “The Courage to be Christian

  1. A fitting selection from the Gospel to help dispel the sensational hype that has been surrounding the so called new corona virus.

    I’ve always found the etymology of the English word “courage” interesting and it certainly supports your point(s). Courage springs from the heart. While God loves everyone, it seems that the courageous people perceive and/or respond to God’s love in a unique way as opposed to the “sheeple.” Sheep are often frightened by the simplest of things and tend to herd with the mass.

    In the church I grew up in, fear was demonized to such an extent that as a male, I became quite detached from my natural emotions of fear – not exactly a sound state. Some say that the longest journey for man is the path from his head to his heart. I would now posit that it is important for humans, and especially men, to be in contact with their feelings of fear. Unconscious projections help imbue current events such as the corona virus with extra metaphysical energy that can be leeched by evil forces. I’ve also come to see that many of the imagery and stories in the Gospel epitomizes a man with wholeness of personality.

    I often think of courage at an intellectual level in the context of truth. To me love of truth and courage are required to find truth and in my own quests I have ventured into the unknown realm of my psyche.

    Your opening introduction remind me of the book that has influenced my life the most over the past three years, “The Undiscovered Self,” by Carl Jung. It was scary for me to embark on a source that seemed so unorthodox. And yet, his observations of “the plight of the modern individual,” of the role of religion and the State, of the empirical reality of the psyche, general avoidance thereof, etc. rang true in my ears.

    To add to your observations, I would tend to agree with Jung insofar as I’ve come to grasp some of his ideas: that the deeper sources of love, faith, courage spring from numinous experiences of the Holy. For Jesus of Nazareth, no doubt the Baptism of John and the descent of the Dove and the loud voice from Heaven qualify as such numinous experience… leaving deep impressions in his heart that gave him such courage and love.

    I do not self identify, anymore, as a Christian. In one way it seems too audacious and in another the term reeks of hypocrisy in my nostrils. If others call me a Lover someday, than I shall be successful in my aim. Meanwhile, I try to be civil and do no harm and to continue searching, questing, and exploring… and to seek dialogue with someone who exhibits a love of truth and a courage to stick out from the crowd.

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    1. I’m approving your comment because I promised myself when I started this blog that I wouldn’t censor it. It’s good to know that even a lover of truth who doesn’t consider himself Christian can still relate to Christian love and courage. I do tend to try to avoid esotericism on the site though, so if you’re after discussion please feel free to contact me personally through the contact page.

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      1. Well, thank you for approving my comment and your commitment to not censoring others; that’s admirable of you. I’m not much of a blogger so please pardon me as I did not consider that a response of similar weight and length might not be appropriate or be totally welcomed. It was an unfiltered response after a long work day. I am open to discussion and will contact you as suggested.

        Since it is a quasi-public forum, however, I would like to add a comment. There are of course many other reasons why I don’t self-identify, anymore, as a Christian. One reason I wish to elaborate upon.

        The Christian Scholastics, so familiar with Aristotelian logic, would no doubt agree with me that “Christian” in the year of 2020 A.D. is far too generic of a term for identification. The immediate question would be, well what kind of Christian? Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic? Like a good algorithm, such distinctions could be taken iteratively/ hierarchically, ad nauseam… and I doubt Saint Thomas Aquinas would say that a person who has never been water baptized, does not confess in the Apostle’s Creed, does not believe in the Trinity, and who has never participated in the sacrament of the Eucharist could ever be called a “Christian.” Maybe Saint Aquinas is right?

        Furthermore, I have way too many theological and historical questions to profess a certain “brand” of Christianity as more legitimate than another and I find the generic term of no practical use for identification purposes in my present society.

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  2. God’s love exudes from those who utilize it! When one gets born again, we have the same qualities of love and compassion that our lord has. That is so powerful, it casts out ALL fear. We can take courage and heal. Your blog clearly captures and exudes these truths for us now! Thank you, Allison. I thank God for you!

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  3. Great points Allison! I also love that scene with the leper in The Chosen. The contrast between Jesus’ response and the disciples’ response is so vivid. The leprous man pleading for Jesus not to turn away from him reminds me of Mark 9, when the anguished father cries out to Jesus to help him and his son. Sean showed me a definition of that Greek word for help – running to answer a call of distress. Was originally a military word, used to respond to a war cry. That father and son were in the fight of their life. I imagine terrified people had run away from them before. But Jesus ran to them (figuratively), loved and delivered them. Compassion comes from God’s love which casts out fear whenever we choose to walk in it. Yay!! 😀 Love you!❤️

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