True Christians Cannot Be Cowards
IT TAKES courage to be a true Christian, as one must be willing to face dangers, difficulty, opposition and, yes, even death itself. Genuine disciples of Jesus Christ cannot expect to receive better treatment than did their Lord. As Jesus himself said: “A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”—John 15:20.
Though Jesus was persecuted, there was no just cause for it. He showed an active concern for the welfare of others. He was compassionate, kind and loving. (Matt. 8:2, 3; 11:28-30; Mark 8:2) Tirelessly he labored, often forgoing food and needed rest, to relieve imperfect humans of their ailments and to give them spiritual comfort and encouragement. (Matt. 14:13, 14; Mark 6:31-34) Though abused, he never reviled anyone. His life record was flawless, free from sin.—1 Pet. 2:22, 23.
Still Jesus Christ became an object of intense hostility. He was maliciously accused of being a drunkard and a glutton, a violator of God’s law and even demon-possessed. (Luke 7:34; John 5:18; 8:48) He suffered great indignities, being spit on, slapped, hit with fists, scourged and finally nailed to a stake to die in public disgrace as if he were a blasphemer against God.—Matt. 26:65-67; John 18:22; 19:1, 17, 18.
It took tremendous courage for Jesus to endure all of this. He could have avoided making himself an object of hostility by simply leading a good life as a carpenter in Nazareth. But he courageously declared the truth, exposing religious falsehoods and the wrongness of a life lived solely for self-interest. That brought upon him the world’s hatred, for those who preferred living a life contrary to God’s will did not want to be shown up as wicked. It hurt them to be exposed as not being the “righteous” persons many of them claimed to be.—John 3:19, 20.
Disciples of Jesus Christ are called upon to do what he did. Not only must they live a life that comports with God’s will, but they must be actively involved in helping others to do likewise. (Matt. 28:19, 20) This activity, especially, brings them into direct conflict with those who prefer their own wicked ways. These react violently, wanting this work stopped. Faced with violent opposition, cowards would stop, but true Christians would not.
The spirit or dominant attitude of true Christians is not one of cowardice. They may be shy, fearful of injury or even in need of encouragement to reflect greater boldness. But they do not allow any fear or shyness to cause them to quit doing the divine will, as would cowards. The Christian apostle Paul reminded his faithful fellow worker Timothy of this, saying: “God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.”—2 Tim. 1:7.
Paul very much appreciated that God had given him a spirit of power. In his letter to Christians at Philippi, he stated: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Phil. 4:13) Paul had been given power to encounter foes and dangers of all kinds so that he did not shrink back in fear. He was given power to endure severe trials and persecutions.—2 Cor. 11:23-27; 12:9, 10.
Besides a God-given ‘spirit of power,’ a ‘spirit of love’ impelled Paul to continue in faithful service. He had deep love for Jehovah God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Filled with appreciation for what they had done in his behalf, he wrote: “I am the least of the apostles, and I am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the congregation of God. But by God’s undeserved kindness I am what I am. And his undeserved kindness that was toward me did not prove to be in vain, but I labored in excess of them all, yet not I but the undeserved kindness of God that is with me.” (1 Cor. 15:9, 10) Then, too, Paul had an intense love for fellow humans, including his countrymen who often were responsible for the persecutions that befell him. With a clear conscience he could say: “I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were separated as the cursed one from the Christ in behalf of my brothers, my relatives according to the flesh.”—Rom. 9:2, 3.
Additionally, a spirit of soundness of mind aided Paul to maintain faithfulness. He kept a balanced outlook, appreciating that the truly important thing was his relationship to Jehovah God as a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 3:8-11) This prevented him from yielding to pressure to make things easier on himself by compromise.
It was because Paul maintained the God-given spirit “of power and of love and of soundness of mind” that he remained an approved disciple of Jesus Christ. He was certain of his reward and, therefore, when about to face death, wrote to Timothy: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith. From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his manifestation.”—2 Tim. 4:7, 8.
Cowards, however, have no basis for such confidence. In fact, God’s Word clearly shows that they have no reward. They are among those to experience “second death,” a death from which there is no resurrection.—Rev. 21:8.
It is only right that this be the case, for the coward is disloyal to God. When seeing others undergo suffering for righteousness’ sake, he becomes frightened and quits serving God in order to escape possible injury at the hands of men. Faced with a test of integrity, he places himself on the side of Satan the Devil by showing that in his case the adversary’s claim is true: “Skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul.”—Job 2:4.
The coward betrays complete lack of faith in God’s ability to offset all the harm that Satan and his agents might cause. If he yields to the threat of death, he manifests lack of faith in God’s promise of the resurrection. (Matt. 10:28; Heb. 11:35) If economic pressure causes him to disobey divine law, he reveals that he has no faith in God’s assurance to provide for his servants as a whole.—Heb. 13:5, 6.
If you desire to be among those who do not yield to such cowardly fear under pressure, take steps to strengthen your faith. Study God’s Word, appeal to him for direction and guidance, associate with courageous Christians and actively aid others to become Jesus’ disciples. Then, like Paul, you can look forward to the reward of life that is to be bestowed, not upon cowards, but upon courageous Christians.