We were raised to be timid, most of us. In the tiny white churches speckling the countryside, we were taught to be cautious, to be courteous, to be kind and good and avoid even the appearance of evil. Being a good Christian looked like wearing clean, pressed clothes to Sunday School, like going to grandma’s for baked chicken after services, like doing well in school so the community would respect your family, and like never, ever mouthing off to an adult.
To be a Christian was to be respectable. But Jesus wasn’t exactly respectable. At least, he didn’t fit his cultures definition of the word. He wouldn’t fit ours, either.
No, Jesus was courageous. And he got into a lot of trouble for it. He’d get into a lot of trouble nowadays, too.
I’ve been pondering courage lately, and what that looks like in the Christian life. My friend James preached a great sermon on Jesus’ courage last week (he’s been preaching a lot on courage lately). Now, I am not a naturally courageous person. I’m not a shrinking violet, but neither do I thrive on challenge and controversy, the way some people do. The sermon made me realize how much of my reticence, how much of my holding back, stems from a deep-seated subconscious belief that I am not *supposed* to be brave. That I am supposed to be good, and cautious, and respectable. That my life should be a beige, mother-of-the-groom dress, never a warrior’s shining mail.
All my life I have been waiting for permission. Permission to shuck the respectable, if beautiful, skirt entangling my legs. Permission to bring my full strength to the battle. Permission to scream out the war cry bottled up inside me, to charge into the fray shoulder to shoulder with my brothers, permission to get bloodied in the fight.
(Strong language from an almost-pacifist, huh?)
I’m tired of sitting primly on the sidelines. And I don’t think that’s just a “girl thing” either–I think my brothers are tired of sitting on the sidelines too, armor rusting, ceremonial swords that have never drawn blood dangling useless at their sides.
It’s time to get off the bench. It’s time to get dirty, to play for keeps, to pour our sweat and blood and tears into this earth we’ve been given, this Kingdom that’s coming. It’s time to stop worrying about how we’re going to get the stains out of our Sunday best if we dive into the battle and come out worse for the wear. God’s got a big ol’ spraybottle of Shout up in the heavenly laundry room.
What if, instead of encouraging one another to be good, responsible
citizens Christians, we encouraged one another to be bold, daring followers of Jesus? And not just any Jesus–certainly not the American, white-picket-fence Jesus–but the brave, gritty, gentle, sinewy, loving, sarcastic, courageous and counter-cultural Jesus described on the pages of the Gospels?
What if we gave each other permission?
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 2:6-7