Any chickens out there? People afraid of pain, tight spaces, dogs, bodies of water, flying, moths–yes, moths–heights…? Everybody raise your hand because if I keep listing, I’m going to eventually get to the thing that chills you to the core. We live in a scary world: snakes, spiders (they’ve discovered a new species the size of footballs, y’all! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/14/massive-spider-red-fangs-discovered-mexican-cave/amp/), tornados, terrorists.
Most of us carry out some aspect of our daily lives in ways that help us avoid or at least minimize exposure to that which we fear, which is not always a bad thing. Sometimes our fears grow fangs and become phobias that make some day to day activities extra stressful, which can be a very bad thing. But worse still is when fears and phobias become our idols, become things we sacrifice our peace and power to. When those hideous little gods are allowed to rule and reign over every move, every decision, we become something dangerous and despicable ourselves: We become cowards.
“It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly…”
But the cowardly…Those three words used to frighten and confuse me. I didn’t understand why “the cowardly” are not only on the list of the so-called serious sinners to be consigned to a fiery second death, but are listed first. After a few decades of witnessing how cowardliness destroys everything from families to countries, I understand.
By definition a coward is “a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain.” The word comes from the Latin cauda, meaning tail, as in not the head, as in bottom, backside, behind–with all the ensuing implications thereof.
By practice a coward is a person who climbs out the back window rather than stand up to a bully at the door. They avoid even essential conflict, confrontation, discomfort, opposition, or difficulty. Their fight song is Take It Easy. A coward doesn’t just feel fear. The Greek word used for coward in the New Testament establishes the cowardly as those who are fear-driven, who lack the courage needed to follow Christ.
Thus cowardliness paves the way for all other sin by regarding self and self-preservation as first and foremost. Cowards are often self-righteous, self-centered, even self-aggrandizing: They adopt any self-serving posture they must to keep conviction at bay.
A coward assumes that feeling good–no matter how much hellishness is going on around him, and often because of him–is his right. He dreads feeling discomfort. Thus a coward will reject anyone who challenges him, anyone who even so much as hints that his attitude might (gasp) be wrong, anyone who points out that his decisions are shallow and self-serving, anyone who confronts his abdication of reason and responsibility. In fact, a coward only manages to display fierceness in his vehement and sometimes violent attacks on those who seek to separate him from his Precious.
A coward will give in to whatever his selfish flesh desires to avoid feeling the burn of self-control. He mocks the forthright, the steady, the brave because he is threatened by them. He wants to know how he can attain complete peace, aka eternal life, but when he hears he has to give up everything he loves about himself and follow a God with a cross on his back, he slinks his way back to cowardly futility.
Cowards can’t compromise. To do so would require them to deny self, and for the cowardly, self is king. So all relationships with cowards must be on their terms, making those in relationship with them slaves to the very things the coward is enslaved to. Every whim, every anxiety, every opinion, every change of mood must be not only endured but embraced by those who share his life in order to extend the illusion that the coward is in charge. Cowards are the ultimate control freaks.
Cowards see disagreements as attacks. All conflicts, even necessary ones, are a threat to be silenced at any cost. Cowards hate truth and despise boundaries, while blithely tolerating injustice and brutality against others lest the attack be launched on them. Cowards bail when things get tough with no thought for those whom their desertion makes things even tougher. Cowards are the ultimate betrayers.
Yeah, I can see why cowards go first.
This weekend, those of us who follow Christ celebrate that we serve a God who did not turn tail and run when his very human flesh was being excruciatingly tortured by sins he never participated in, a God who commands us to be strong in the power of His might, a God who assures us that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, a God who acknowledges we who fight alongside Him will face tribulation but that no weapon formed against us can prosper. We serve a God who loves us all–even if we’re scared of moths–but whose kingdom has no room for, makes no allowances for cowards.
Galatians 6:9 reminds us to not grow weary in doing what is good. That word weary doesn’t mean “get tired” even as cowardly doesn’t mean “one afraid.” It comes from a Greek word that means “evil, fearful, weak, give up.” With that in mind, the scripture could be read like this: Do not become so evil and fearful that you become weak and give up...
Thank God Jesus didn’t. Really. Thank Him. And have a most courageous Resurrection Day!
That’s the Word, and I’m a witness.