Last week, I had one of those “moving” television experiences. I don’t know if you know what I’m talking about, but it really is something. It’s a moment when what you see becomes a catalyst for change, and spurs you on toward something bigger – something deeper. Again, I had one of those moments.
I was sitting in this ridiculously comfortable chair my parents have when “What Would You Do?” came on ABC. You see, the entire show is based around monitoring how people will respond to various set-up situations, many of which hit the heart pretty hard. The people who are part of the random charades are paid actors who have become pros at feeling comfortable with angry rebukes, and odd bystanders. Excited for what this particular episode would hold, I turned the volume up, grabbed a blanket, and leaned back. Four scenarios came across my screen:
- A woman of Chinese decent was sitting in a crowded restaurant with her daughter who had made an A- on test. Not satisfied, the girl’s mom pounded her daughter with all sorts of insults about her grades and educational performance.
- A pregnant teenage woman was meeting with a married couple who was interested in adopting the child she was carrying. The pregnant woman promised the couple they would receive the baby but explained that she had a few medical costs she needed covered. The married couple agreed to pay them, a deal was made, and the couple left. A few minutes later, another young married couple walks in and meets with the pregnant woman. She makes the same promise, to give them the child she was carrying, and receives another check.
- A 15-year-old boy wants to buy condoms for him and his girlfriend to use; however, he knows the cashier at the counter and is fearful that she will tell his mom, so he asks random customers to buy them for him.Toward the end of this act, ABC threw in another scenario: The same situation is played out but with a teenage girl who wants to buy the Plan B pill.
- A couple is demonstrating domestic violence along a walking trail in the middle of the day. The boyfriend is pushing his girlfriend around as he insults the way she is dressed.
As each scenario played out, I was amazed to see how different people responded. To the first one, women went CRAZY. Several women went up to the child when her mom went to the restroom and told her to call 911. One woman even cussed the mom out as she chased her out of the restaurant. In the second one, only one man went up to the second couple and explained that they were being scammed. In act 3, all sorts of responses were evoked. The teenage boy got a few fist pumps, a few lectures, and almost every time a pack of condoms. What about the teenage girl wanting Plan B? She received a lot of compassion, and only one woman refused to buy her the pill. The fourth and final set-up is what challenged me the most…
As a quite large young adult pushed his girlfriend around, people put their own lives in danger by stepping in the middle of it all. One woman, a petite rollerblader, even demanded that the man leave and was later brought to tears as she tried to comfort the embarrassed and abused girlfriend. Two grandmas stepped in, and several large bodyguards, as well. I was amazed most, however, by a young, and very skinny, man who pushed the boyfriend out of the way and asked that he take his frustration out on him instead of the girl. Incredible.
I took a deep breath and turned off the television.
Two days later I sat at Starbucks thinking about what I had watched. What caused some of these people to be so courageous? When ABC asked them, they simply said that they had to do the right thing. Would I? I found my answer through another question…
What causes people to be courageous for Christ?
I hear stories all the time. For example, a pastor on staff with the church I work for was at the movies when he saw a husband and wife fighting. Although he wanted to avoid the awkwardness, his wife gently nudged him hinting that he needed to intervene. So, he strolled over, and had a very calm conversation with the man and his wife. He asked them what was wrong and sympathized with them. The pastor had been there before. The story was familiar. The fighting couple, no longer fought. Instead, they cried. Healing was found. People were pointed toward Christ.
What about Paul of the New Testament? Beaten, stoned, imprisoned, chained and killed for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or what about David? His own son betrayed him, enemies sought after his life, he continually sought to love his enemy only to receive hate in return. What causes such boldness? What silences fears in a way that allows people to live like this? What causes people to be courageous for Christ?
I believe it all comes down to hope.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
What causes a man or woman to do courageous things for the sake of the gospel? I believe, it’s a hope that is placed fully in God. A displaced hope leads to a disoriented and mixed-up purpose.
“My soul finds rest in God alone;
My salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken…
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:1-2, 7-8)
God alone is where David found his comfort, joy and hope. He set his life on the fact that God was the only sure thing. This allowed him to be unshakable. God was his refuge in times of spiritual hardship, or physical danger. David didn’t run to food, clothes, riches, control or fame in the middle of hard times; he ran to the Lord. He found his definition through God – not through the world – for he knew it would fail him, but his God would not.
My hope can’t be found in a relationship, a job, a certain financial situation, the clothes I wear, the material possessions I acquire, or in my social status. It can’t be found in being a certain size or reaching a desired spot of physical fitness. Relationships will end, my body will force me into retirement, or my company will. My money will run out, or it’ll just go to the next person in my family when I die. I’ll grow out of my clothes, and my material possessions will grow old. I will let people down and they will do the same to me. My body will decline, as age becomes an issue. I can’t put my eggs in these baskets. I can’t bank my money there. They’ll all fail me. I know this. I’ve tried.
Christ is certain. If half of my eggs are in his basket and the other half are somewhere else, I still end up displaced. I end up confused and utterly ineffective. I want to do what’s right. I don’t want to fear what will happen for doing it. I want to stand up for justice, and love in it all. I want to fearlessly proclaim Christ, but, if I’m honest, many times I shrink back.
To be courageous, I’ve got to focus on the fact that in life or death, Christ remains. To be where He wants me is the richest reward this life can offer. He makes hard times bearable and filled with purpose. Stand up for justice, seek peace, and humbly walk with Him…whatever happens, He’s got me, and his hope does not disappoint.