IN many places, the lion is known as the king of beasts. Although strength and intelligence are among the qualities symbolized by the lion, the one that is probably most often associated with it is courage. There is a type of courage that gives us tremendous power to do good. Christ Jesus exhibited it, as did many other Biblical figures. It is moral courage. We see this quality whenever someone is tempted to do wrong for personal, political, or professional gain -- and refuses to do so. It also appears when one resists the temptation to exhibit prejudice toward a particular religious, ethnic, or racial group.
Moral courage involves having the strength and clarity of thought to stand up for justice and rightdoing even when that isn't the most popular thing to do. The Biblical prophet Elijah, for example, was threatened with death on more than one occasion. Yet through his moral courage he was able to face his enemies and to overcome them. He was a veritable ``lion'' of moral courage, unafraid even to face 450 prophets of a pagan god and to prove through prayer that the one God is the only power.
He had glimpsed something of man's actual spirituality and had seen that the basis for all right action has to be spiritual. This means that all acts that are done from a material basis -- out of greed, envy, hatred, fear -- tend to be destructive in the long run. Those done out of a clear conviction of justice, intelligence, love, and joy have a healing effect.
When we are challenged, then, with temptation, the choice we are actually making isn't just between two courses of action. We're really deciding if we want to see ourselves as spiritual and therefore beloved and protected by God, or as material and therefore subject to the whims of fashion, pride, and chance. If we choose the spiritual, we gain the stability of God, who is the one Mind governing all, and we will be sustained.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Moral courage is `the lion of the tribe of Juda,' the king of the mental realm. Free and fearless it roams in the forest. Undisturbed it lies in the open field, or rests in `green pastures, . . . beside the still waters.''' We can be like this lion and can know this peace even in the face of challenging circumstances.
Elisha, a faithful follower of Elijah, wasn't afraid when attacked by enemies, because he understood something of the omnipresent love of God. He knew that to obey God's will was to align himself with the divine. And this divine power is undefeatable. The Bible tells of a time when an enemy sent a whole army to surround the city where Elisha and his servant were. Elisha said calmly to the young man, ``Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.'' His inner certainty of God's presence and power enabled him to practice the moral courage that kept him ``free and fearless.'' The soldiers were dealt with, and no harm came to anyone.
Jesus made clear that we can never be separated from God. Nor can we lack His guidance. Through prayer we can be led to the right solution for whatever situation we face.
Our willingness to stand up for morality and justice places us under the government of divine law. And this law is backed by all-powerful God. When we allow it to operate in our lives, it gives us strength to endure even in times of great challenge. It also shows us the right way to proceed each step of the way.
To be morally courageous may not be easy. At times we may feel discouraged. But to take the first step and turn to God in prayer for guidance is to make a start at being a ``free and fearless'' lion, subject only to God's truth.