Tag Archives: agape

Of a Good Courage

Yes, what the world needs now is love. And also courage.

Joshua 1:8-9

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

We think of having courage as having no fear — but that’s not so. Bravery is not the absence of fear.  It is the willingness to face what one fears.  Often, we think of firefighters, police officers, and soldiers as being courageous, walking into burning buildings, chasing down bad guys, putting their lives on the line in horrific combat.  I say that the men and women who do these things out of real love — in order to save the helpless and protect the innocent, defending others with their own life’s blood if need be — they are, indeed, courageous.  Heroes.  But, those who, through a kind of arrogance, force themselves to walk into danger for their own vainglory — well, there’s no courage in that.  Only willfulness.

For where there is no real love, there is no real courage.

If you’re willing to face what is scary because you’re figuring that you will profit somehow by it, then you are simply gambling. You are taking a risk, a mighty huge risk that may give you some trepidation, but one that is calculated toward a particular reward.  I don’t mean that there is anything wrong with this boldness in and of itself (although, there may certainly be something wrong about the means and/or the end) I just mean to say that it isn’t the holy kind of courage akin to a life of divine virtue.  The holy kind of courage is the kind spoken of in the Bible.  It’s what Christ has.  It’s what the Holy Spirit can inspire in each and every one of us.

Let’s think for a moment about everyday courage, which is, quite possibly, the best kind of courage there is. Perhaps, you will never have the opportunity to run into or flee from a burning building with people trapped inside, perhaps you’ll never come face-to-face with a gunman.  Chances are, you probably won’t.  But, every so often, perhaps every day, you will have to spend time with someone that you don’t like.  Or you will come to a merger with a stranger in line or in traffic.  Or you’ll be disappointed by something that you tried and failed. Or you will be slighted by someone that you love.  Or you’ll get sick.  What then?  What will you do?

Will you be strong and of a good courage and listen to that person that you don’t like for his or her own sake, attentive to his or her needs?

Will you defer to that stranger in line or in traffic with no expectations of thanks or even acknowledgment, sacrificing your moment for the stranger’s?

Will you accept your own failures, setbacks, and disappointment and keep trying to do what you believe is right even though you know that you may never succeed?

Will you forgive the slight of your loved one and not hold it in grudge?

Will you patiently bear your sickness in a kind of loving solidarity with all people who suffer, without lashing out to make others near you feel pain?

Do you have the courage to face your fears, to face your dislikes, irritations, annoyances, and sufferings, out of real love and concern for someone other than yourself? If so, if you find yourself practicing some small, everyday sacrifice for love, then, my friend, you are courageous.  You are a hero.  A hero that will never receive an award or accolade, a hero that may never even be recognized, not even by himself or herself, as a hero — but who will be known as a hero in that moment through the eternal reaches beyond time and space.

Actions speak so much louder than words. And the smallest actions can resound the most greatly.  All teachings of goodness and justice, of mercy and compassion, of helpfulness and healing, are not taught in order to be taught.  All wise and loving teachings must be meditated upon, must be pondered in the heart and taken to heart, so that they may be lived.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you know that if you do what is truly right and good you will probably suffer in doing it — and then you do it anyway… that, my friend, is real love.  Real courage.  Because real love requires a good courage.  Will you be eternally rewarded for it?  Some say that you will.  Some say that you will not. Do it anyway.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

First

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”…

Matthew 19:30

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Often, on the force of my emotions (especially anger or anxiety) I throw myself headlong into something – a loud argument, an inflicting pain competition, a grabby/bossy controlfest, or a full-blown panic attack.  I know that I am very self-centered in these moments and that my actions and reactions are all about me.  This can also happen when I’m overwhelmed with desire for pleasure, for then I will manipulate people and situations to get what I want, ignoring the small, still voice within that is telling me that I shouldn’t.  When the force of anger, anxiety, stress, greed, or lust are given full sway, our hearts get swamped, drowning the voice of our better angels.

There are moments in our lives when immediate action is necessary.  Moments when we should follow our natural instincts and do what comes naturally.  These are times when we see a loved one in immediate danger and we rush forward to assist, to save.  Or when we see a stranger being beaten mercilessly and we stand up and speak out against the injustice.  Or when someone falls and we reach out a hand, without even thinking, to catch him.  I’m thinking that there might be other moments, too… But I can’t think of any right now.  All that I can think of are these moments – these moments of love.

If the building we are in catches fire, our instinct is to get the heck out.  That’s a good natural instinct, all about self-preservation – self-preservation itself is not a bad thing, for we exist for good reason.  If we know that there are other people in the fire, people that may not know of the danger, or people who are trapped and unable to escape, then perhaps we will not run out of the building so quickly.  We may hesitate, wanting to help the others, but the inner call to flee will most often overwhelm us.  Perhaps, outside of the building, still thinking about the others inside, we will be overcome with a sense of responsibility and, yes, a sense of guilt.  Then, we might summon the courage and the bravery to overcome our instincts and walk back into the burning building.  Firefighters walk into burning buildings all the time.  But they need to receive training that will help them to overcome their natural instincts in order to fight the blaze and save people – they also have lots of protective gear and equipment, which is extremely helpful.  But, even with training, precautions, and fireproof materials, firefighters still continually die in the course of performing their duties.  Every person who joins a fire department knows the risk.  And people still join every day, still rush into blazes from which non-firefighters are fleeing.

The point is that human beings are able to do brave and beautiful things with love and responsibility.  We are not all perfect right out of the box.  We grow, learn and develop.  And, hopefully, we learn the importance of love and develop the willingness and the desire to give ourselves in true love and to receive the presence of others as priceless gift, and so, be responsible to and for each other.  We human beings have an amazing capacity for selflessness, generosity, and courage.  This is the humanity that Jesus Christ holds up when he is nailed on the Cross.  All goodness in us, all godliness in us, we too easily leave behind when we are rushing in to fulfill our selfish desires.  But Christ not only reminds us of who we were created to be, but he also sanctifies who we are: broken, weak, even scared, but willing to sacrifice ourselves to save others.  Christ did this in a singular act that is for all time – for Jesus is not only fully human, but also fully divine, and so all of his actions are initiated and infused with and by Infinite Eternity.  We can do it, too, though in smaller, less universally significant ways that are no less important because they are caught up with Christ’s sacrifice for all.

When a stranger jumps in front of a speeding truck to push a pedestrian out of its path to safety, or when you take the arm of an elderly person who is climbing steps in order to give assistance, or when I hold my tongue when my mother is annoying me greatly though she means only to help me – we are Christ.  We do not put ourselves first.  We don’t let the strength of our self-centered emotions or instincts overtake us.  We weaken our instincts for self-preservation or even for self gratification so that we may be strong in love.  Love is the greatest and most indomitable force out there.  And it’s in here, right in here, right inside of me.  Love is my strength, my goodness, my beauty, my courage, my salvation, my joy, my glory – precisely because it isn’t mine.  I do not possess love nor do I have a claim upon it that is exclusive of others.  Love is given to me from Love Itself.  Love is the reason that I exist.  Love is why I am formed.  Love is infused in me by grace.  Love flows out from me to others, to the other – but only if I will it.  If I listen first to worldliness, to the flesh, to self-centeredness, to me, myself, and I, then I put my true self last.  I put love – true love, love that is given and received, agape, divine love –  at the bottom of my list of priorities.  And then I fail as a human being.  For love is first and will always be first.  Though our self-centeredness may place love last as we rush in to be first, in the end, God makes all things right.

Note: this is not any kind of an exegesis or explanation of the scriptural verse.  This is just a Burst – biblically inspired reflections of the moment.

Christina Chase