Today, while reading a post about the bravery of some Uzbeks, both in exile and in their native homeland, in going to a website and posting under their own names and sharing information that is deemed unacceptable in Uzbekistan , most notably photos of themselves holding signs that say they are not afraid of one of the most brutal dictators in the entire world, who has ruled over Uzbekistan with an iron first since that nation’s independence from the Soviet Union. Now, it is only occasionally that Uzbekistan enters into my usual concerns , since it is a nation I have never visited in a part of the world I have never gone to, and since the only word I know in Uzbek is the title of this blog entry. Technically speaking, to say “qorqmaymiz” in Uzbekistan may be considered a crime, because it is considered a slanderous statement to say that one would not need to be afraid of the nation’s president, because saying that most people are afraid of their government in a given country is to implicitly claim that the nation’s government is repressive, since fear should not be widespread under rule that is accountable to the people and subject to legal and constitutional restrictions.
We tend to think of courage that is found in soldiers, in military matters, or in life and death situations that are remote from most of our peaceful personal concerns. Yet most of the acts of courage that exist are in ordinary circumstances. Do we love those who are afraid of us, who strike at us in their fear and insecurity? That is an act of courage. Do we show outgoing concern to others, seeking their best interests, even when we are misunderstood, and even when we suffer for it? This too is an act of courage. In every society and nearly every group, there are people we are encouraged or allowed to hate, to view with contempt, and to see as beneath any honor or civility whatsoever. Some societies, like India, have labeled entire large segments of society as untouchable, people to be deprived of any affection or regard except among their own fellow rejects and outcasts. Other societies and groups focus their contempt and dishonor on one or a few people that they view as threatening or different. In turn, those who are marginalized often respond in the same vein of hatred that they are treated, seeking to justify their own behavior by the harshness of what has been meted out to them. Yet we are called to a better way.
It is little surprise that courage is an important matter in the Bible. Rather than merely belabor the point, let us look at a selection of biblical verses that deal with the subject of courage, to see just how ubiquitous the concern of courage is throughout scripture:
Deuteronomy 31:6-7: “”Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it.”
Joshua 1:7,9: “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
2 Samuel 10:12: “Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”
2 Chronicles 15:8: “And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the Lord that was before the vestibule of the Lord.”
2 Chronicles 19:11: “And take notice: Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king’s matters; also the Levites will be officials before you. Behave courageously, and the Lord will be with the good.”
Ezra 10:4: “Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.”
Psalm 27:14: “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”
Psalm 31:24: “Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.”
Isaiah 41:6: “Everyone helped his neighbor, And said to his brother, “Be of good courage!””
What all of these verses share is a focus on courage, some of them relating to military matters like the conquest of the Promised land, some of them relating to obedience to God, and others related to personal matters of encouraging others and having faith that God will accomplish His work in us, so long as we remain faithful and good. It is the second and third issues—obedience and God’s will for our lives, as well as our encouragement of those around us, where we have the most opportunities to build and develop courage, as well as to build up the courage of others through our friendship and support. Yet these opportunities are often ignored or neglected, because we lack the courage to treat others with love and respect.
By nature, I tend to be a very timid and easily frightened sort of person. Such courage as I possess, which may at times appear to others to be intensely reckless, is a gift from God, and not something I can claim out of my modest inheritance. Yet despite my own large reservoir of fear in the course of my life, there are factors as well that mitigate my own fear when it comes to dealing with others. As it is written in 1 John 4:16-18: “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” If the torments of my own life are reduced in any meaningful way, it is because of my love for others, which allows me to be bold in being gracious even to those who are ungracious with me. It would be nice to have that same honor and love returned, though, given that is one of the most poignant and spectacularly unsuccessful quests of my existence .
What does love have to do with the bravery of the Uzbek dissidents who publicly state through their shared photos that they are not afraid of one of the world’s most repressive governments? The mostly young adults who hold these signs are not consumed with hatred, they do not seek violent overthrow, but rather their photos show joy and happiness at having overcome the fear that is the natural result of their situation and environment. It is the love of their friends and countrymen that gives them the courage to rise above the fear, even if they risk a great deal by standing up for their own dignity and showing their freedom of speech and thought. They risk being thrown out of the country, risk horrible prisons and rough treatment from police. We may risk the same fear if we are true to our beliefs and maintain the truth, even in love and immense gentleness, yet we too should be courageous, for ultimately our aim is eternal life in a kingdom far more glorious than any that now exists in our dark and fallen world. We will need much courage, and much love for those we meet along the way, if we are to enter into that kingdom.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: