Cowardice repulses us. Central to the human condition is the impulse to celebrate heroes, and despise cowards. As one human body, we exalt those who live with courage and honor, and together we decry those who have the power to rescue but do not.
We respond with unanimous disdain when we see
- a police officer refuse to enter a school under attack by an armed gunman,
- a captain flee his sinking ship, leaving his passengers to fend for themselves, or
- a firefighter stand on the sidelines of a burning home rather than run in.
When a rescue mission is forsaken for self-preservation, we shrink back and cry out, “How could they!” The police officer, the captain and the firefighter are all highly trained and prepared for the mission. So when they sit it out in pursuit of their own safety, we rightly identify and condemn the evil of cowardice.
Cowardice may seem distant and personally irrelevant to the average American with the average day job, but we Christ followers must ask ourselves, Has fear caused me to forsake my mission? Am I sitting on the sidelines, more concerned with my own self-image and security than with those who are perishing? I am equipped and called, so why am I unwilling to go?
Afraid to Obey?
We live in a time and a place where safety and comfort are prioritized in every sphere. And those are not bad values. Unless they take precedence over the commands of God. Left unchecked, fear hinders Christians from acting Christianly—from pursuing the very rescue mission that we’ve been called to.
Jesus commanded us, “Go and make disciples of all nations).
His callings on each of us are as unique as we are. Some are called to neighbors and family members, others across town or to foreign lands. Some rescue missions require a passport and a foreign language. Others require a brave walk to the water cooler and an invitation to lunch with a co-worker. Just as we don’t look the same, neither do our rescue missions.
While the specific missions may look different, the calling for each of us is the same: All Christ followers are called to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness (1 Peter 2:9). And this inevitably requires courage and sacrifice. We aren’t permitted to sit safely and carefully in the light, but rather commanded to proclaim him who saved us to those in the dark.
Afraid to Enjoy?
The paralysis caused by fear keeps us from experiencing the deep and profound joy).
And Jesus’s example is supreme: “For the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
Paul, too, said, “Yes, and I will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).