Roger Severino

Christ-like Character: Courage

I remember watching the opening scene of “Saving Private Ryan” several years ago when it first came out. I recall the horror of seeing these young men getting out of their seaborne crafts and thrown onto the beaches under fire of flying bullets. I put myself in the boots of those soldiers’ and felt the fear I imagine they experienced. I remember wondering if I could muster the courage to do what they did that day. Though I don’t glamorize that experience in any way, I noticed that there was a part of me that envied them. To be tested of one’s mettle and come out on the other side (for those who survived), that is the type of courage and character I would have liked to mark my life (or so I thought).

What is courage? Does it mean having ice water in your veins and never being afraid of anything? I don’t believe so. Courage is facing your fears and doing the right thing in spite of those fears.

I don’t have the temperament for extreme sports, bungee jumping, or parachuting out of airplanes for the thrill of it. Others do. But that’s not the point. These optional forms of entertainment are not at the heart of the virtue of courage. I think it takes more courage to fight for the health of your family, or pursue your spouse in the midst of the messiness of marriage than to have a thrill-seeking experience.

When we examine the character of Jesus displayed in the Gospels, is courage one of the traits we see? Without a doubt! We must move beyond a simplistic view of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and come to grips with the fortitude and daringness we see him display on the pages of Scripture.

Luke 9:51 says “When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, he determined to journey to Jerusalem.”[1] A more literal translation might be he “set his face” toward Jerusalem. From the context, it is clear that the cross is what awaited him in Jerusalem. Jesus had a determined will to obey the Father though it involved rejection, suffering, and death. Do you and I have such resolve to do what is difficult when God has called us to do something?

Matthew 26:36-46 is one place in the Gospels that tell of Jesus’ anguished prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he was betrayed. Whereas the first Adam had failed his temptation in the garden (see Genesis 3), the last Adam (Jesus) courageously faced a much greater testing in this garden to bypass the cross. The text says he was “deeply distressed” and “swallowed up in sorrow — to the point of death.” Jesus faced an experience deeply distressed, sorrowful, even horrified (see Mark 14:33). “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”[2] Three separate times Jesus prayed seeing if there was any other way, but there was not. So, courageously, he faced his fears and put himself in the hands of his betrayers, a sequence of events that led inexorably toward the cross.

What does courage look like in your life? What does it mean for you to do the right thing even though it is difficult? For some it may mean facing your addictions (i.e. prescription pills, shopping, alcohol, pornography, food, TV) and courageously battling toward freedom from your enslavement. For others, it may mean getting out of your comfort zone to pursue a new adventure God has for you. Whatever it is, may Jesus empower you to live a bold and courageous life to the glory of God and to the benefit of those around you desperately looking for courageous men and women who make costly, right choices.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Lk 9:51.
[2] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Mt 26:39.

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