A CERTAIN kind of courage is needed for being a soldier, scaling heights, exploring depths. But to be a Christian one needs moral courage. This courage takes form in a willingness to take a stand for what is right when we're being pressured to follow the crowd. It helps us stay calm when we're being verbally abused. Moral courage gives us the strength not to retaliate even when retaliation seems justified, to say no to wrongdoing even when one is tempted to say yes. This is the kind of courage we learn about from the Bible when we read, for example, about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar's gods in Babylon. The Hebrew captives' moral stand put their lives at stake, but they trusted God and were protected from harm. When we trust wholeheartedly in God, our trust makes us confident; it puts our lives under God's control, not the domination of others or of adverse circumstances.
Who doesn't want this kind of God-given dominion and fearlessness? The Bible tells us numerous times not to be afraid. ``Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.''1
The same God whom the Hebrew captives trusted is with us today. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says: ``There is too much animal courage in society and not sufficient moral courage. Christians must take up arms against error at home and abroad. They must grapple with sin in themselves and in others, and continue this warfare until they have finished their course. If they keep the faith, they will have the crown of rejoicing.''2
Animal courage is based on physical prowess and muscular strength, whereas moral courage implies a commitment to high ethical standards and principled behavior. Christian Science explains that moral courage depends on the power of God, or good, and is the only real power there is. Sin can seem attractive, alluring, and tempting, but Christ Jesus' example shows us how moral courage enables us to overcome sin. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness with promises of personal gain and power, he proved that the Christ-power not only gave him dominion over sin but also destroyed it.
According to the Bible, man is spiritual, created by God in His likeness. The misconception that man is at base a sinner springs from a false sense. To refuse to give power and reality to sin, to stop being intimidated by it or indulging in it, and to acknowledge our unity with God in prayer point to the operation in consciousness of the healing and saving Christ, which gives us the courage and strength to do right. By degrees we will see whatever is ungodlike in our experience being eliminated.
I saw an example of this when someone verbally attacked me for not doing something he wanted. I might have argued or justified myself -- and ended up in an even worse battle. Because of my study of Christian Science, however, I knew a better way. I answered his charges -- but quietly, honestly, humbly -- and I refused to accept that this outburst of aggression could influence my behavior. I knew that God was the controlling and governing force of my life. The other person quietly accepted what I said, and I heard nothing more of the matter.
We cannot be Christians without moral courage, and we have plenty of opportunities, no matter how small, to use it.
1Isaiah 41:10. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 28-29.