When evangelist Billy Graham stepped off a Tennessee stage in 1952 to remove the velvet ropes that separated the blacks from the whites at his rally, he exhibited courage.
When former slave Richard Allen collected funds to purchase a blacksmith’s shop in order to have a church building where African Americans could worship Christ without being forced to sit on the floor along the walls, he exhibited faithful boldness.
When Nazi officials arrived in the mountain town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in northern France to establish a Hitler Youth Camp, they expected to find the residents eager to appease. Instead, a group of youngsters presented the officials with a letter. They had asked for help from Pastor André Trocméin drafting this letter, which stated that the children of the town did not wish to participate in the Hitler youth movement because of the arrest and deportation of Jews in Paris.
The letter boldly declared, “We feel obligated to tell you that there are among us a certain number of Jews. We make no distinction between Jews and non-Jews. It is contrary to the Gospel teaching…we have Jews. You are not getting them.”
After the war, records revealed that the villagers had rescued approximately 5000 refugees. During that time, not a single resident ever revealed the whereabouts of the hidden Jews or turned in a neighbor.
Growing up, my youngsters loved true stories like this, just as they loved the Biblical accounts of David and Daniel, Miriam and Deborah, Peter and Paul. They loved fictional stories too with courageous characters such as the Pevensey siblings and Reepicheep in the Chronicles of Narnia.
So where does moral courage come from? Interestingly enough neither courage or boldness are fruits of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5. But where do they come from if not from God? Perhaps moral courage is a result of committed faithfulness.
German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer took a bold stance against Adolf Hitler’s ungodly political regulations. He said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” He preached faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in a time when that was dangerously close to treason. He taught in an underground seminary, but he did not hesitate to share his message on the radio, warning German Christians not to betray the cross of Christ. He was disappointed but not surprised to learn that his microphone had been mysteriously switched off during the broadcast.
Like Bonhoeffer and the residents of Le Chambon, we never know when we might be called upon to be brave and bold. Let us actively prepare ourselves and our children, holding fast to the words in Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous for the Lord is with you wherever you go.”
Shirley Raye Redmond is an award-winning writer and former newspaper columnist. Her book Patriots in Petticoats: Heroines of the American Revolution was named one of the best children’s books of 2004 by the Bank Street College of Education in New York. She is also the author of Courageous World Changers and Brave Heroes, Bold Defenders, part-time instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, a sought-after workshop speaker, and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.