Courage is the operating system that your convictions run on. There’s a reason we talk about the importance of “having a backbone.” Take the skeleton out of a body and the entire thing collapses into a useless pile. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you believe all the right things, or that you believe them strongly — if you don’t have the courage to take action, your convictions are ultimately worthless.
And right now, what so many Christians (and pastors) across our country need more than almost anything else is courage.
Because you can believe that children should be protected from radical gender ideology and groomers. You can know that preborn babies are deserving of equal protection the law. You can argue that churches shouldn’t let the government shut them down while they let liquor stores and strip clubs stay open. You can see that William “Lia” Thomas is a man and had no business competing against girls in NCAA swimming.
But if you never find the courage to speak out — or even better, do something — about these problems, then what good are your convictions?
When it comes to standing tall in the public square, Christians should have more courage than anyone else because we have the Creator God of our universe on our side. Or, more accurately, and more importantly, if we are in Christ, we are on His side.
In chapter three of Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Issues, Pastor James Garlow emphasizes the need for courageous Christians in today’s world. He makes the point that no one remembers the names of the 10 spies who came back from scouting the Promised Land with an anxious, pessimistic report. Why would we? They were cowards. But, he says, we could never forget the other two spies: Joshua and Caleb.
“Why? Because they were courageous, bold, and ready to charge forward. Nobody wants to run with wimps. Everybody likes winners. Wimps don’t turn around nations that are in trouble. You and I can’t afford to act like any of those ten unknown characters. It’s time for us to be Joshuas and Calebs. It’s time for us to have courage.”
What does having courage look like in a day and age full of compromise? In a moment in American history when you might lose your job if you “misgender” someone or “use the wrong pronouns”?
First, we have to overcome the obstacles to speaking up and the excuses for cowardice. Unfortunately, for Christians, these can often come from (perhaps) well-intentioned but (deeply) misguided “spiritual sounding” advice.
Garlow addresses one of the most pervasive and persistent phrases weaponized against potentially courageous Christians in order to keep them in their chains of silence and chairs of comfort. Here it is: “I just preach Jesus. I don’t get involved in politics.”
How can you counter this holy-sounding but courage-compromising shibboleth? Garlow argues,
“Those who say they only preach Jesus mean that they are unwilling, ill-equipped, or perhaps even afraid to engage what the Scripture says about other issues. I truly believe it’s important to preach Jesus. But it’s also important to preach what Jesus preached, and that was the understanding of the Kingdom manifested on earth. That’s why He taught the disciples to pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. On Earth as it is in Heaven.’”
Remember, politics is the process by which we collectively order our society and our communal lives together for the common good. As Christians, we believe that the “common good’ must be based upon “Creation order” — that is, it acknowledges the existence of God, the reality of men and women, and the importance of Christian values as the foundation of a moral society.
Yes, the Gospel is a message about a spiritual hope: the forgiveness of sins through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But that spiritual hope doesn’t spirit us away out of this physical world. No, Jesus calls us to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16) in this world. He spread His hands out on the cross to save our souls; the least we can do is roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty to help make the world our souls live in a better place through the political process.
So, preach Jesus and practice politics. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and — and Christians are called to do both.
Second, be willing to fight the culture war — and to pay the cost that comes with doing so. In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Aragorn tries to convince Théoden, King of Rohan, to join the fight against the evil forces of Sauron. King Théoden fears that joining the fight might be too costly. He argues “I would not bring further death to my people…I will not risk open war.” Aragorn replies, coldly but clearly telling him the truth: “Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.”
In case you haven’t noticed, an open culture war is already upon Christians in the United States, whether we would risk it or not. Garlow echoes these exhortations, explaining that present-day believers “were not born between wars. We are alive in a time of tumultuous ideas and concepts. We are in a war: a war for truth, righteousness, and justice. The pages that follow are designed to equip you for success in those battles. Welcome to the war.”
Welcome to the war. And what happens in a war? It gets ugly. Christians must be willing to step into the fray and fight for what’s good, true, and beautiful. To fight for our future. To fight for our children. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who risked it all to fight Hitler, said “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
Fighting to save our children from radical gender ideology and the horrors of abortion won’t be pretty. Fighting against Marxists who are working diligently to separate children from their parents will be costly. And it will look and sound like a war — because it is.
Remember, then, whose side we are on: God’s side. Remember Joshua, and not just his name, but the promise he received from God as he stood on the banks of the Jordan River:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9
Ask God to make sure you have the courage needed to put your convictions into action. Then, when you see a chance to make a change, do it.
Follow William on Twitter! @William_E_Wolfe
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.