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Love, Courage, and Action

Fifty-two years ago three young adults loved God and me enough to pray for me, to alert me to my need for God’s forgiveness, and to tell me about Jesus. As is often the case, their loving action took courage, a character trait most people admire, but it all began with love.

That’s how it began in eternity past, when the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit loved each other and together created all that exists, including us, the creatures made in their image. And the cosmos continued in love even when a heavenly creature rebelled against God and deceived us, promising something he could not deliver: to be like God, simply by not trusting the One who made us, and accordingly disobeying Him.

Our sin brought death into the world, but God still loved us. He put into action a long-term plan that would reconcile us to our heavenly Father through faith in Jesus, the Spirit-conceived-and-led human Son of God who took our death penalty on Himself, an act of love for the Father and for us that restored us to eternal life.

All who are faithful in Christ are now learning to love as He loved, with action, and many acts of love take courage.

As I said above, most people admire courage, which we tend to identify primarily as physical courage: running toward the gunfire during a shooting, diving into the cold water to save a drowning child, going into a burning building to pull out a helpless person. And that is indeed courage on display. But we who are in Christ in America live in a time when a different kind of courageous action is needed: to speak truth to powerful liars, to stick with the truth when threatened with being driven out of the herd, to vote against one’s own financial advantage (at least in the short run), to remind one’s friends about the Word of God when you know it will rankle them, especially when your personality is that of a golden retriever.

I suspect that such courage is probably just as hard for vocational Christian leaders, the ones who are called to follow Jesus, to call others repent and believe in the One who over and over again says, “Fear not.” Biblical scholars argue over what Jesus meant when He asked Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” - more than you love the fishing nets? more than you love your brother Andrew and the other Apostles? more than they love me? But the question is simplified if we assume Jesus was simply asking, “Do you love Me more than anything else? Even if it means losing a steady, dependable income? Even if it means those you depend on walk away? Even if it means people say unkind and untrue things behind your back or to your face? Even if it means members of your own family cut off the relationship?”

Furthermore, I can think of no human justice issue nor idolatrous temptation that is more important or deadly than that of abortion, and I believe we are compelled by the Gospel to speak up for the defenseless. Accordingly, the threats and pressures from the evil one are probably higher against us than regarding any other matter, and the ability to bear such conditions and to continue to speak the truth can come from only one source - the God of love. That’s why the Holy Spirit says, we are to grow in Christ “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4.15). Only when we are committed to others’ eternal well-being are we willing to suffer earthly loss, even at their hands. That’s how Jesus loved us. When we are secure in His love, then we can love others enough to suffer on their behalf.

So my admonition to you is this: Grow in your love for God - learn and remind yourself daily about how amazing He is and how He loves us in stunning ways. Grow in your love for others - study what God says about us being made in His image and how desperately needy we are. Grow in your awareness of the dangers the unborn face in a world obsessed with death, and let yourself be moved in your soul so that you desire to do something to help them. Discover what actions you can take to put your passion into reality. Then fueled by God’s love, fear not; take whatever courage you have and take the action God lays on your heart to love your neighbor as yourself.

It won’t be easy. It will probably cost you. It may be painful. But God will be honored, many will be blessed, you will know the peace and joy that no cowardice can ever produce, and you will know Christ in ways you never knew were possible. Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with the love of God. Amen.

". . . [S]peaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:15-16

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