We were raised to be timid, most of us. In the tiny white churches speckling the countryside, we were taught to be cautious, to be courteous, to be kind and good and avoid even the appearance of evil. Being a good Christian looked like wearing clean, pressed clothes to Sunday School, like going to grandma’s for baked chicken after services, like doing well in school so the community would respect your family, and like never, ever mouthing off to an adult.

To be a Christian was to be respectable. But Jesus wasn’t exactly respectable. At least, he didn’t fit his cultures definition of the word. He wouldn’t fit ours, either.

No, Jesus was courageous. And he got into a lot of trouble for it. He’d get into a lot of trouble nowadays, too.

I’ve been pondering courage lately, and what that looks like in the Christian life. My friend James preached a great sermon on Jesus’ courage last week (he’s been preaching a lot on courage lately). Now, I am not a naturally courageous person. I’m not a shrinking violet, but neither do I thrive on challenge and controversy, the way some people do. The sermon made me realize how much of my reticence, how much of my holding back, stems from a deep-seated subconscious belief that I am not *supposed* to be brave. That I am supposed to be good, and cautious, and respectable. That my life should be a beige, mother-of-the-groom dress, never a warrior’s shining mail.

All my life I have been waiting for permission. Permission to shuck the respectable, if beautiful, skirt entangling my legs. Permission to bring my full strength to the battle. Permission to scream out the war cry bottled up inside me, to charge into the fray shoulder to shoulder with my brothers, permission to get bloodied in the fight.

I’m tired of sitting primly on the sidelines. And I don’t think that’s just a “girl thing” either–I think my brothers are tired of sitting on the sidelines too, armor rusting, ceremonial swords dangling useless at their sides.

It’s time to get off the bench. It’s time to get dirty, to play for keeps, to pour our sweat and blood and tears into this earth we’ve been given, this Kingdom that’s coming. It’s time to stop worrying about how we’re going to get the stains out of our Sunday best if we dive into the battle and come out worse for the wear. God’s got a big ol’ spraybottle of Shout up in the heavenly laundry room.

What if, instead of encouraging one another to be good, responsible citizens Christians, we encouraged one another to be bold, daring followers of Jesus? And not just any Jesus–certainly not the American, white-picket-fence Jesus–but the brave, gritty, gentle, sinewy, loving, sarcastic, courageous and counter-cultural Jesus described on the pages of the Gospels?

What if we gave each other permission?

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 2:6-7

Jenny Rae
Jenny Rae Armstrong is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes about faith, social justice, missional living and women’s issues for Christian publications. She is a member of Redbud’s Board of Directors. Jenny lives in Wisconsin with her husband and four children. See more at www.jennyraearmstrong.com.

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  1. Ha! I love that you said you don’t want to be a “beige mother-of-the-groom’s dress!” That analogy hits home w/ me as I am faced w/ wearing a beige dress for first my daughter’s wedding, and then my son’s, later this summer. And your challenge is well-taken. It can mean so many things to be a bold follower of Jesus — including rest (another countercultural thing to do!) Thanks for this post!

  2. Thanks to Redbud Writer’s Guild for posting this today. My upbringing in the church was similar to yours, Jenny, and though I appreciate much of it, I agree with you, and more so as I get older and bolder, we are in a cosmic battle for and in the Kingdom of God and that is no place to be “timid,” the timidity Paul warned Timothy against. As my husband has often said, we are in a terrible and awful war and our only weapon is love and our strategy is servanthood. He had in mind the Jesus of the Bible Mark Galli called “mean and wild” (in his book of the same name). Tough love originated with God who loved enough to give his Son, who loved enough to die for us, but also loved enough to not let us get away with anything. There is a sternness in God’s love. It is a love to die for. And he’s called us to this great battle with him! Rooted and grounded in his Word and prayer. Keep on fightin’!

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