Courage is Not Optional!
- Tuesday, December 30, 2008
You don’t have to go to a house of worship to know right from wrong. But we expect something more, don’t we, from people who know God’s commands to confront injustice? Yet year after year I am sorely disappointed by the cowardly behavior of kids who belong to God and know He desires that His people defend the weak. These children need to be inspired and empowered to do exactly that.
If you doubt this observation, put it to the test. Read your children’s Sunday school or youth group curriculum. Go back as many years as you can. Volunteer in their classes and observe what they’re being told. Ask them what they talked about and learned. You’ll discover this: Churchgoing kids are instructed nearly exclusively on how to avoid sin. Their spiritual training consists of what a person shouldn’t do. Avoiding sin is good and right. But what they’re missing, what our culture is missing, is full and consistent instruction about what to do—which includes standing up for those being abused.
We want our children to stay away from sins of commission—choices and actions that are wrong. Yet we’re not also teaching them the consequences that come from the sins of omission: not making choices and not doing acts that are right. Yes, it’s good when they avoid doing wrong. But what about when they avoid doing right? Sometimes it’s what they don’t do that facilitates disharmony and decay in the world. When we fail to love, we sin.
Many Sunday school curricula don’t even include courage as fundamental to a virtuous life. Some teachers relegate courage to the personal realm, telling children they need to exercise the courage to say no to others. That’s important. But it entirely misses the Bible’s admonishment to say no on behalf of others.
Christians are encouraged to feed and clothe the needy, and this is excellent. But we’re rarely challenged to defend those in need. Why the distinction? Because helping the poor usually doesn’t include conflict; defending the needy often does. We don’t like conflict, so we ignore this side of our faith life, yet we’ll never attain a purpose-driven life if we don’t learn how to do conflict well. And until we do, the weak will continue to suffer.
I explained in No More Christian Nice Guy how being nice instead of good ruins individual lives. My wife and I showed in Married…But Not Engaged how being nice instead of good ruins families. Now I’m demonstrating that being nice instead of good about bullying shreds souls and abdicates our responsibilities to the most needy among us. Bullying burns a child’s psychological skin; how can we imagine that it’s “unchristian” to put out the fire?
Good people stand up to injustice. Nice people don’t—they slink away and cover their cowardly tracks. Good people make enemies for the right reasons—Jesus wouldn’t have told us to pray for our enemies if He thought we wouldn’t make any. Nice people worry too much about the approval of others to make an enemy when they should; they go with the crowd, right or wrong.
Niceness is often a disguise for indifference and apathy. With time, with enough failed opportunities to forge moral courage, goodness, and righteousness, the reward many nice people receive is that everyone likes them—except themselves and those who depend on them for protection and provision. A nice person is usually an appeaser, one who, as Sir Winston Churchill said, “feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” An appeaser is willing to overlook injustice in order to be liked by those who desperately need correction; he worships the quicksand they walk on.
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