Reprinted, with permission, from LifeDate (Lutherans for Life, Winter 2014).
Ten eyewitnesses testified what they saw and heard: a people strong and mighty occupying the land; the Israelites would be foolish to invade. But two other men decided the matter differently—by faith, not by sight. God had promised this land to the Israelites, and they would possess it. Because Joshua and Caleb were in the minority, with the crowd following the other ten scouts, God postponed His promise for forty years. After that time, God exhorted Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7). It was time to claim the Promised Land.
Godly courage often appears foolish by worldly standards. Godly strength appears weak. What the world sees, and what Christians believe, do not match up. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). This paradox applied in the days of Joshua. It applied most profoundly when Christ triumphed in the very moment that He appeared the most defeated—on the cross. The same paradox applies also to the daily lives of Christ’s followers.
The world sees foolishness and weakness, but those who live by faith in Christ have the courage to be compassionate in all circumstances. Being strong and courageous in the Lord, Christians recognize that their vocation is not a lifestyle they chose for themselves, but rather the calling they receive from God to serve others in their midst. For example:
A man whose wife gives birth to a child with Down syndrome enters the vocation of fatherhood for a child with special needs.
A woman whose mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease discovers that God now is calling her to be “mom” to her own mom.
A financially challenged couple would be foolish by worldly standards to have another child, but with God as their provider they joyously receive His gift of a new life.
As heirs to the kingdom of heaven, Christians have the entire universe at their disposal. They may look poor. The odds may appear insurmountably against them. But the people of God are strong and courageous in the Lord, clinging to the promises God has proclaimed to His saints throughout the ages. With David, the church sings:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? …
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:1,14)
Christians do not permit the lifestyle modeled by the world to limit their compassion, but rather they imitate Christ, who willingly gave of Himself to serve others. When the world cries, “inconvenience—not now, that’s not my job, no, not for me,” imitators of Christ say, “Heavenly Father, not my will, but Thine be done.”
Compassion that is courageous in the Lord takes many forms. For some, it means changing a diaper at 2:00 a.m. For others, it means re-arranging the house—perhaps building an addition—so that grandma can move in and be cared for by the family. It might mean providing baby clothes for the unwed teen who is pregnant. Or cooking a meal to bring to the neighbor who is recovering from surgery.
Whenever a need presents itself, don’t look at your calendar first—compassion rarely fits anyone’s schedule. Look to Christ. Remember His love for you. Recognize His calling for you. Receive, in the Holy Word and blessed Sacraments, His strength for you. Then stop at nothing to love your neighbor as yourself.
Forget about pursuing your own dreams, forget about living your own life, forget about the world’s “wisdom.” God equips His saints with the courage to live differently—the courage to build a compassionate home for service to others.
Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson is the founding president of The Hausvater Project. He lives with his wife Marie and their homeschool children in Casper, Wyoming, where he serves as Academic Dean and Professor of History and Philosophy at Luther Classical College. He previously taught American history, history of science, and bioethics at Bethany Lutheran College, 2003–2023. For more information, visit www.ryancmacpherson.com.