"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).
I read the above scripture recently, and was nonplussed for a bit. How do you be brave when you know you are not brave?
Slight digressive disclosure: I am afraid of everything. It’s more than a miracle that I have been a missionary for the last 28 years. I tell prospective missionaries, if I can do it, anybody can, because it doesn’t depend on what I bring to the table. It depends on God. That’s my secret to being a missionary.
But getting back to being brave, another translation is “act like men.” Technically, I am a man. Some guys are really manly: They are often referred to as the alpha male. That’s not me. I’m not much at being a leader, I am not a dominant personality that sways crowds with magnetic charisma. (I’m not whining; I’m okay in my own skin. I do have certain life skills.)
My question was, how do I do what Paul is commanding? Seriously?
I read the next line, and it clicked: Let all that you do be done in love.
I remembered those times that I have loved, I have been utterly fearless.
Like in witnessing. When I love that other person, I have been fearless. If they brush me off, I’m not destroyed. Or I persevere after an initial brush-off, and suddenly, we are having a significant conversation; and the other person doesn’t feel like I’m pushy or obnoxious but realizes that I care. I know that I could be ridiculed or despised, but I don’t care about myself.
I have seen this fearlessness in giving money, in going on outreach trips, confronting people and doing memorial services. I could not have done them if I was concerned about myself.
That’s the great part about love. You can’t worry about yourself and the other guy at the same time. Love is concerned about the other person. That makes love the true bravery. I have been aware that something bad could happen to me. This might cost me. I could lose somehow in all this, but I’m concerned about the other person, not myself. If you were concerned about yourself, it wouldn’t be love.
So then, the challenge is to do everything in love.
Watch out because you live in love. Stand firm in the faith because you love. Be brave because you love. Be strong because you love.
One application of this exhortation is to be humble. If I am going to love, I need to be unconcerned about myself. For this, one needs Jesus.
All I do, on my own, is think about myself. I really need something to happen to me before I can love, and that is the cross. Thank God for the cross of Christ, which ends my life, so I can be joined to Christ raised from the dead.
Arrogance and thinking more highly of myself than is warranted, is out. Paul says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 is about love. If we are arrogant, we are not acting in love.
Another application is to love all the time.
There isn’t an appropriate time to not love. Love has to identify us. This makes me think of so-called “discernment” ministries that slice-and-dice the people they think are “off”. When do we get to be arrogant, or slander, or treat others badly?
But for me, this way to truly be brave excites me. Even a guy like me can be fearless legitimately, to be able to do the things God wants me to do. Maybe those things aren’t impressive in themselves, but for a guy who’s really not a Jason Bourne type, it’s significant.