Matthew 10:34-40 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (35) For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (36) And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. (37) He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (39) He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (40) He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
In these scriptures, our Lord makes a very clear overall statement. He says a lot here, but overall He’s making it clear that in order to be accepted with Him, we are going to have to have some courage. Courage – The ability to do something that frightens you. The Lord isn’t just talking about any kind of courage here, but a very specific kind of courage and the level of courage of which our Lord speaks will sometimes become very personal to us because having this kind of courage will cost us in ways some of us may not be ready, or willing, to acknowledge. But, He also points out that there is a great reward for choosing to have, and maintain, this kind of courage. The kind of courage I’m talking about is called moral courage!
What is Moral Courage?
In a blog post entitled Moral Courage – The Engine of Integrity, author Michael Josephson defines moral courage as, “…our inner voice that coaxes, prods, and inspires us to meet our responsibilities and live up to our principles when doing so may cost us dearly”1. Every person has an inner voice which they must obey or live out their days in misery and regret. Now, we often teach that as part of our Personal Development classes, about going after that for which you know beyond any doubt your heart longs and burns within you and do it all to the glory of God! But, in this message we want to focus in on the moral courage voice that speak to us and how we must be willing to obey it, as our Lord points out here, or likewise live out our days in misery and regret!
Moral Courage Takes Wisdom And Love
Given that we now understand what moral courage is, and that it calls us sometimes to stand up and say something, we must also understand how to apply it. We apply it through wisdom and love. In other words, we don’t just go around calling out every wrong we see and call that having “moral courage”, but at the same time we are not afraid to speak up on issues when it’s obvious that SOMEONE needs to say something.
This brings to mind what’s called the bystander effect. This is a social psychological claim that individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present; the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that one of them will help. In other words, it is more likely that no one will step up. There comes a point at which someone needs to say, or do, something. It takes moral courage and sometimes physical courage to be the one to do so!
The wisdom to know when to speak and even HOW to speak is given from God. James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Moral Courage Takes Patience
By patience, we don’t mean we are to allow evil to just go on and on. There is a point at which we must speak up…that’s the whole point here. Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:37-38 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. Sometimes, well-meaning people (Christians included), take this and say something like, “I’m supposed to love God more than my family, so I’m going to set them straight on some things!”
Anytime we have to deal with tough situations, we must remember we are dealing with PEOPLE in the process, not just things. Unlike things, people have feelings, emotions, biases, and most importantly…souls! Those souls are going somewhere in eternity, so let’s remember, while there is a place for firm kindness, let’s remember also to have wisdom, love, and patience in times of having the moral courage to deal with tough things.
What is the Cost of Moral Courage?
Michael Josephson also makes the following observation about moral courage when he says, “It takes moral courage, to be honest at the risk of ridicule, rejection, or retaliation, or when doing so may jeopardize our income or career. It takes courage to own up to our mistakes when doing so may get us in trouble or thwart our ambitions. It even takes courage to stand tough with our kids when doing so may cost us their affection.”
Our Lord puts it this way inMatthew 10:39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. In other words, “If you have the moral courage to stand with Me, even at the disapproval of some of the most dearly loved people in your life, then it will cost you. It will cost you losing your life in this world, but you’ll gain eternal life with Me!” The question is, which life is more important to you? This life or eternal life? You will not be able to perfectly preserve both. God and the world will see to that!
So, what is the cost of moral courage? It’s the potential of losing your potential. As Mr. Josephson pointed out, “…ridicule, rejection, or retaliation…income or career…trouble…our ambitions…their affection”
What is the Benefit of Moral Courage?
With all this being said, it may seem that having moral courage is not worth the effort, but our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, very clearly points out the offsetting benefit of THIS kind of moral courage when He says, Mark 10:29-31 …Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, (30) But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. (31) But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. So, take heart! As tough as it may be sometimes, your moral courage is not, and will not, be in vain!
Moral courage can also lead to a more virtuous life because, while you’re addressing things in life, you’ll also be lead to address your own life and to “practice what you preach”. We see that moral courage is very important to our Lord! So much so, that He has prepared great rewards for those who exhibit it in this world of toils and snares!
Another great benefit of moral courage, other than the awesome benefits of God, is the monument attributed to you in people’s minds when they think of you. When they say, “Whether I always agreed or not, THEY had the moral courage it took to do the right thing and to address issues; even the difficult ones and even when it may have costs them at times to do so!”
Do you have THIS kind of courage? This is the kind of courage it takes to successfully live for God, or do most any worthwhile thing successfully, in this present evil world!