I recently completed a speaking tour that included Promise Keepers Canada and Iron Sharpens Iron in Shiloh, IL. Seventeen talks in nine days is hard on anyone's system. Thankfully, all went as planned, including a powerful 5-part Canadian television interview with It's A New Day host Bob Meisner.
Our many thanks to the many men of Promise Keepers Canada and Iron Sharpens Iron whose behind the scenes work will likely never receive the recognition it deserves as they co-labor to lift men's burdens across North America.
I'm fortunate and privileged to speak in different kinds of churches. From Pentecostal to Mainline churches, I witness the diversity in the body of Christ, a diversity that I wish more people could witness first-hand. If they did, I think we would spend less time arguing over theological minutiae, which makes us appear increasingly irrelevant and is sometimes a hiding place for fear of intimacy with others, and more time loving one another in a more substantial way, which makes us look increasingly Christ-like.
During our men's conferences, I talk about the importance of knowing what makes you indignant, which means in part, "much to grieve." Though Jesus was often indignant, our spiritual training has us shunning this godly reaction to what is wrong and broken in our world. Indignation, properly handled, is often a path out of nice but boring and eventually lifeless spirituality and into a larger, richer and more God-glorifying life. It fuels our capacity for a more muscular and courageous faith, and brings us into a deeper relationship with God.
One of the people listening was Chris Kutyn from Comox, British Columbia, who showed me what happens with men get together and take muscular love seriously. At a men's breakfast, more than 50 men stoked their indignation and their inner capacity for courageous protection and raised $800 in one sitting to rescue women in Nepal from forced prostitution. "We're using the money to buy them the first electronic sewing machine in the area," he told me. These men of muscular faith are helping women escape forced prostitution by providing for them a path toward another livelihood and out of darkness and despair. For some, the donation was a real sacrifice and hardship.
The quality of our lives expands or contracts based upon the amount of courage we possess or don't possess. With courage, we are far more likely to attach our lives to a transcendent cause and mission, which demands sacrifice of our time, treasure and talent. But through this sacrifice comes the deepening of our soul and our faith. Our lives have greater meaning, purpose and significance. With courage, we are better able to produce tangible expressions of faith in action. We move away from Sweet Christianity and into a more rugged and satisfying relationship with Christ.
When asked what is the greatest expression of love, Jesus did not provide a sentimental example, such as giving your wife 12 long-stem roses on Valentine's Day. Rather, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" [John 15:13]. Jesus was foreshadowing his own death, but he was also telling us that the greatest form of love is more Marines than Mother's Day, more courage than sentiment.
More so, we are called to love people through our courageous strength. Jesus said that the greatest of all commandments is to "Love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself" [Mark 12:33]. Not only do we see once again the three parts of our human essence (logos, eros and thumos, our seat of courage within), we are told that we are to love God and others through our courageous strength-not God's strength in our lives. Each of us is given the capacity to love others through our courageous strength, and we're commanded by God to exercise it.
But be warned: this more muscular, protective and rescuing love is disruptive--among the biggest sins within naive and comfort-loving spirituality, which should not be mistaken for historic Christianity. Many who go to church today due so to flee the world--not to change it. They are too easily satisfied with low-level goodness. So don't be surprised when your heroic desire to love and protect others is met with opposition--even within the church.
Courage is sometimes enemy-making. We see it throughout the life of Christ, including some of his most gracious and merciful acts, such as the woman caught in adultery. We are so conditioned to only acknowledge Christ's gentle side that we neglect to see how his capacity for tough love and courage make his mercy and grace possible. Without the courageous capacity to withstand the anger and slander of the religious leaders of his day, there would be no rescue of the woman caught in adultery, who could have been stoned to death by Mosaic Law.
Courage is the virtue that underpins all other virtues, and its absence, cowardice, is a sin on the same level as murder (Rev 21:8). The men of Comox, through their mercy for women forced into prostitution, will likely make enemies with the pimps of Nepal. Like all of us at sometime in our lives, they made an important choice: Offend man, or God, whose will is for justice to roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24).
And finally, courage fuels the most noted examples of Christian witness and faith--examples that even the cynic cannot ignore. Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr., William Wilberforce, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Mother Teresa, Harriet Tubman, Pope John Paul II, Chuck Colson, Dr. James Dobson--to name just a few-all in their own way, through their courageous capacity, have battled to defend human dignity, which is a gift from God that no person should tear asunder. In their own way, the men of Comox, British Columbia, can add their name to this enviable list.
Paul Coughlin is the author of numerous books, including Unleashing Courageous Faith, No More Christian Nice Guy and No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps. He also co-authored a book for married couples with his wife Sandy, titled Married But Not Engaged. His articles appear in Focus on the Family magazine, and he as been interviewed by Dr. James Dobson, FamilyLife Radio, HomeWord, Newsweek, C-SPAN, The New York Times, and the 700 Club among others. Paul is founder of The Protectors, the faith-based answer to adolescent bullying, which provides curriculum for Sunday Schools, private schools, retreats, and individuals that trains people of faith to be sources of light in the theater of bullying.
Original publication date: May 22, 2009
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