In the days that we live and the actions that we take we are each given a choice to act out of courage or fear. Courage confronts the harsh realities of suffering, injustice, illness, embarrassment, failure and death. Courage does not see these harsh realities as problems to be solved or prisons to be escaped. Courage sees them as the background and context for all that is beautiful and meaningful in life. In my opinion Christianity should embolden us to live with this kind of courage.

Unfortunately, what Christianity has come to be known for is not courage but fear. In this view, harsh realities are the problem and Christianity offers the solution or the escape. For this reason, hope is often denial that has been baptized. It is fear that motivates people to avoid suffering, injustice, illness, embarrassment, failure and death and it is false hope or denial that promises that these harsh realities can be avoided.

Christians are not delivered from death (the death rate is 100% I believe) but they can be delivered from the fear of death. Christians are not delivered from suffering, in fact they are called upon to suffer in solidarity with the pain the unjust world inflicts on the vulnerable. Christians are not delivered from illnesses if church prayer chains are anything to go by. Christians are not saved from embarrassment and are in fact called upon to give up their own personal ego needs for the sake of others. Christians are not spared the experience of failure and are in fact called upon to take risks with the understanding that the failure represented by the cross is in fact what we call success.

If we do not have courage, which is the only way that we can love ourselves, we can never have compassion, which is the only way to love our neighbors.   Having compassion means feeling the suffering, the injustice, the illness, the embarrassment, the failure and the death of other people and responding in ways that give love.  Even though injustice is a basic reality, it does not mean that every injustice must exist. While suffering is part of life, it does not follow that all sufferings should continue.

As Christians, or if you prefer, people whose stories are interwoven with the stories of Jesus, we have the courage to attempt something we can never succeed in doing. We have the courage to establish the holy community on earth as it is in our gospel ideal. Knowing that we will fail does not stop us because we understand grace as something that forgives our failures and motivates our courage. We need not feel shame or guilt for the pain of this world, but like Jesus, we should take responsibility for redeeming it through courage and compassion, for they are the lights that shine in the darkness of fear, and we cannot let the darkness over come them.

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