Thursday, October 30, 2008

Two Indispensible, Powerful Soul Traits - Purity and Courage

If there is one thing that epitomises Kevin Sheedy it is courage in the face of staunch, stubborn resistance. Not that this wily sixty-year-old is much tempted to submit to ill-feeling justice; he’s had far too much practice at bucking the system for real truth and often the underdog. But something is needed to temper the courage we ought to show, the courage that is altogether seemingly absent in the secular world today. Something must cool the intense heat of boldness and the all-guns-blazing approach. The answer I find is purity.

The biblical writer James is quick to point out the importance of purity; “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure.” (James 3:17 NIV) In other words, proper wisdom, the sort that works and is based in the reality of truth, is absolutely set apart and holy. It has no biases and could easily be interchanged for ‘love.’ This sort of trait manifest in us brings about neutrality and distinguished deportment; ‘a noble reserve of bearing that cannot be mistaken.’ (A.W. Tozer)

This reminds me of an underlying and driving presence of epieikes, a Greek word used in the New Testament for courageous submission based in faith in God. The word translated “gentleness” (epieikes) “signifies a humble, patient stedfastness (sic), which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment without hatred and malice, trusting God in spite of all of it.”[1] It is “a certain kind of willed, self-effacing [or modest] kindness.”[2]

What could we achieve with this combined frame of bearing--purity and courage? We’d love, as Eugene Peterson says in his Message paraphrase, “as if (our lives) depended on it--because (they do).” (1 Corinthians 14:1) We’d make sure we said that thing to someone--that thing that needs to be said; but it would be tempered in the purest sense of care and grace, and wouldn’t offend them. We’d also protect ourselves from thinking too minimalistically i.e. about ourselves rather than the broader landscape of life. (Acknowledging it takes courage to reject our own wants, desires, and needs for the greater good.)

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Fritz Rienecker (orig.) & Cleon Rogers (trans.), Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1976), p. 560.
[2] Don A. Carson, Basics for Believers, (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1995, 2004), p. 109.

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