I wonder if the world even remembers what it is.
Moral courage isn’t the football star stepping onto the field to face the suited-up gorillas from the opposing team – though that would take some courage. It isn’t the teenager who swallows a goldfish to impress some friends at a party. It isn’t the cowboy who digs his spurs into the sides of a 2,000-pound bull that wants to destroy him after eight seconds. It isn’t even the clown who taunts the bull to distract him from the fallen rider.
Moral courage is a different beast altogether. We find it in the lives of Biblical men like Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, or Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. Joseph, of course had every reason to be sneaky, conniving, and downright depraved, after all his family had turned against him. He had been sold into slavery and taken to a place where no one would ever know his upbringing and the expectations of his parents and his God.
Potiphar, an Egyptian, who was a just man, bought Joseph, but his wife was an immoral alluring wench. When Potiphar’s wife propositioned Joseph, he had some choices. He could have made the excuse that he was young, and the older woman had seduced him. He could have blamed Potiphar for not being a better husband. He could have blamed the government for not allowing sex education in his school.
Joseph was a man of moral courage. He knew what was right and knew his choices were his alone. He could stay and be tangled in the wench’s web, or he could run. He chose to run!
Some say that running is a coward’s way out, but sometimes running is the better choice. To stay in the deluge of moral filth that permeates our society, is the coward’s doom.
Another story of moral courage is that of Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who like Joseph, were taken into slavery. These young men were not sold, but brought into the kingdom by King Nebuchadnezzar. These young men were princes.
“Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” (Daniel 1:4)
The king wanted these favored young men to be fed daily on meat and wine, and at the end of three years they were to be brought to stand before the king. The Children of Israel had a code of ethics as to how one should eat. Wine and meat were not on the list of acceptable things to eat every day. Daniel and the other boys were faced with a choice. They could follow the traditions of their new circumstances or they could stand strong in what they had been taught.
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank:” (Daniel 1:8)
In other words, Daniel said: “I have made a commitment to serve God in all my doings. I will eat as I have promised even if it means that I might offend the king.”
Moral courage ran through every vein of Daniel’s body. Because Daniel was committed to his principles, he was blessed along with his buddies. They were allowed to eat as they had been taught. They went before the king the best and the healthiest of all the young men of the kingdom.
“As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding, visions and dreams.” (Daniel 1:17)
Now at the end of the days (they were brought) before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them 10 times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. The Lord because of their dedication to moral principles had blessed these young men, but their trial was not over.
Nebuchadnezzar, the king, made an image of gold, and expected everyone to bow to his new invention. He invited princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image.
Then he made an announcement: “Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, aharp, bsackbut, psaltery, dulcimer and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up.” (Daniel 3: 4-5)
Then here was the kicker where people of artificial courage would have buckled.
“And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3:6)
The King was not a happy camper when he heard that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego did not bow down to the image.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?” (Daniel 3:13-14)
Do you understand that if you do not bow when you hear the music, you will be cast into the fiery furnace? Moral pigmies would have hurried over before the music started and paid homage to the golden figure. The three Hebrew boys were not moral pigmies. Their answer was quick and without hesitation.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
At that point “Nebuchadnezzar full of fury” ...commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times more than it was wont to be heated.”
Even the guards fell dead as they threw the three young men into the furnace. As the king watched, he saw four people in the furnace.
“Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, ye of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire.” (Daniel 3:24-26)
What a miracle moral courage had brought upon these young men, but the miracle did not end there. Everyone who saw the miracle was changed. Anyone who told of the miracle was changed.
Even today, we read the story and some part of us is changed because these young men had the moral courage to stand and say, “We know that God can save us, but if He chooses not to, we will continue to be loyal to Him no matter what.”
That is moral courage at its finest! Where does that kind of courage come from? The cowboy rides the bull, the football player faces the giant, and even the soldier faces death, but that is not moral courage.
Moral courage is the refined gold after the dross has melted away. Moral courage is the diamond that has been polished to perfection. It is the porcelain after a fire. Only until we have been tried in the furnace, can we claim that precious quality, moral courage.
Where in our world are the leaders with moral courage to stand up for the right no matter which way the political winds are blowing? I’m afraid they stand at the top of a very high mountain and are very much alone. I wonder how far up the mountain I am. PD