A Bit About Bravery

This morning I was searching through some Bible verses on the importance of seeking truth when I came across this exhortation from Paul:

“Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Everything you do should be done in love.”

This two-sentence exhortation comes from his first letter to the Corinthian church (16:13-14) and it caught me by surprise when I read it. Specifically, it was the English phrase “act like a man” that the Holman Christian Standard translation uses. Act like a man? Other translations have a form of the phrase “be courageous” in this place. Why does a man’s behavior have to be synonymous with courage? What about women? Do they not display courage? Is a godly woman not courageous?

I’m probably splitting hairs here! What does the Greek terminology Paul uses for “act like a man” mean? Be manly. Literally! More sensitive translations take the surrounding context and come up with “be courageous” or “show courage,” and I think that is Paul’s whole point in this verse. “Stay alert,” he says, “stand firm in the faith” and “be strong.”

His imagery here is a mighty man of old — a warrior who is armed like Rambo — who walks to the front line of a confrontation and yells, “Come and take it!” Or of a line of warrior Scots “mooning” the English army in order to make a point. Think “burly” and not “girly.” No offense, ladies. It’s all a mental stereotype image.

Bravery is not easy, nor is it natural. I wish it was! I’m a timid man by nature. I think big and bold but I whisper in public. So a dose of easy bravery would be really nice!

Two summers ago I was the campground host at a Forest Service property in mountainous New Mexico. It was an amazing environment among pine and spruce trees, but even before I was on duty I knew that there were wild animals all around me and, due to drought, many of them were a wee bit hungry. During the day I often imagined what I would do in a bear encounter. I imagined myself boldly stepping out of my pop-up camper (totally safe against wild animals…), facing the bear and simply pointing at the forest. “Go home!” I would declare. “And don’t let me catch you in this campground again!” The bear would sulk away in contrition and all would be well.

What I didn’t figure in was the nocturnal nature of brown and black bears. Two AM and the sound of tearing metal and the feeling of my camper shaking was enough to end my imaginations and send me into a new level of fear! I do think I yelled something at the bear. Not sure I can print it…..

I love how Paul follows up his manly-man analogy of standing firm in your faith. He doesn’t gather the armed forces in a huddle and say, “Hands in here. JESUS on three. One, two, three…” No, he follows manly-man with love. “Dear manly warrior of Christ,” he says, “Let love be your everything.” Huh? What??

Therein lies one of many complexities of following Jesus Christ. We are to be strong, firm and courageous in our guarding of the truth and yet we are to be known for our love. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).”

What does a godly warrior man look like? He loves other people, especially those who share his faith. Bravery involves love, too. In fact, loving someone may be the bravest act of them all! The most courageous act. The act with the most impact.

Say… that sounds a bit like what Jesus modeled for us. For the joy of eternal life with those he would save he endured the shame of the cross. For God so loved the world…

Just a thought on bravery thanks to Paul and his godly, brave, courageous, standing firm warrior manly-men. Oh yeah.