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The courage to act on our convictions

18 Jul

cropped-discipleship-294.jpgDuring World War I, a British commander was preparing to lead his soldiers back to battle. They’d been on furlough, and it was a cold, rainy, muddy day. Their shoulders sagged because they knew what lay ahead of them: mud, blood, possible death. Nobody talked, nobody sang. It was a heavy time.

As they marched along, the commander looked into a bombed-out church. Back in the church he saw the figure of Christ on the cross. At that moment, something happened to the commander. He remembered the One who suffered, died, and rose again. There was victory, and there was triumph.

As the troops marched along, he shouted out, “Eyes right, march!” Every eye turned to the right, and as the soldiers marched by, they saw Christ on the cross. Something happened to that company of men. Suddenly they saw triumph after suffering, and they took courage. With shoulders straightened, they began to smile as they went. You see, anything worthwhile in life will be a risk that demands courage. [1]

We certainly want to avoid the charge being leveled toward us that we were neutral at a crucial point of our life. Dante said in the 13th century that “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. “

Today our culture is far less likely to raise up heroes than it is to exalt victims, individuals who are overcome by the sting of oppression, injustice, adversity, neglect or misfortune. … Success, as well as failure, is the result of one’s own talent, decisions and actions. Accepting personal responsibility for victory, as well as for defeat, is as liberating and empowering as it is unpopular today.[2]

Ed was a motion picture producer who had finished his most recent film. During the next year as every independent film producer does, he had been working hard to try to sell his picture to one of the majors.  Being unsuccessful in his attempts to sell the majors, he had then approached many of the minor motion picture distribution companies.  He had finally aroused some interest in a smaller motion picture distribution company and had arranged for a showing of his picture to their top executives.

At the conclusion of the showing, the president of the motion picture distribution company turned to Ed and said, “There is nothing particularly wrong with your picture.  The story is all right, the quality is fine, the acting is acceptable, but if it is going to be a money maker there are three changes that need to be made.  There are three different locations in your film where we need to add sex scenes so that the picture will have some kind of box office appeal.  With the addition of these three scenes, we can assure you of a million dollars in profit for your share of what this picture will gross when released by us.” 

Ed needed to make a sale badly because of the current conditions in his own company, but he responded by saying, “Thank you for looking at my film.  I appreciate your taking time to consider this as one of your projects for distribution, but I am sorry that we will not be able to make the changes that you have suggested.”  Ed knew to whom to say “No.”

He had the courage to act on his convictions.

However, taking a stand against the crowd is not easy. This is a struggle that exposes our strength or weakness. In past years South Africa was a climate of racism and black men often suffer humiliation from white inhabitants.  A Bantu was sent to the theater to get tickets for his  white employer.  There was a single line and upon inquiry he was told to get in the white man’s line although in South Africa this is forbidden. Suddenly a black haired youth elbowed him out of line.  This haughty action was followed by similar actions of a teenage girl.  Then a real bull of a man with closely cropped hair seized the native and hurled him into the street. 

The theater manager told him to get back in line, but again he was thrown out. Then a voice sounded clear above the rumble of the complaints.  A man of about fifty, with whitened temples and in the open neck attire of a farmer, shouted with a voice ringing with threat and authority,  “Let this fellow in. What’s the matter with you?”  The crowd cowered and the lowly native was placed in front.

The South African farmer risked his reputation and the crowds disapproval, but he stood firm.  This is goodness.  And, it costs. Contrast this with the Indiana teenagers arrested for shoplifting.  They admitted they did not need the merchandise, but stole it because everybody was doing it.  Investigation revealed they did not feel they had done wrong since the crowd had placed a sanction on it.

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[1] Gordon Johnson, “Finding Significance in Obscurity,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 82.

[2] U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in a speech at Regent University, quoted in the Christian Leader (Oct. 1996), Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 2.

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Encouragement

 

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