Love Takes Courage

When I was invited to go to Catalyst this year I was excited about the opportunity to learn and grow as a leader. I was thankful to Jeff Roth who provided us tickets. My intention for going was not just for myself though because I wanted to bring back some motivational ideas and energy to help encourage others as well. I hope you enjoy hearing what I learned!
The theme of the conference was courage. The first session was led by Andy Stanley and his key point was that “a simple step of courage can be the catalyst for something extraordinary.” He gave examples of how Rosa Parks stood up (or sat down?) to unjust norms of segregated bus seating. This act of courage led to the Montgomery bus boycott and eventually to the Civil Rights movement. One thing I realized about myself during this conference is that it is a whole lot easier to go with what is considered the “norm.” I often unconsciously choose the path of least resistance. While this mindset can be beneficial and save energy when making trivial decisions it can also become a habit that leads to selfishness and apathy. It is easier for me to turn my head away from injustice and pretend that the world is ok instead of really trying to understand and love people well. One of the things I learned from this conference is to have the courage to ask tough questions of my friends and of myself. When I ask myself tough questions it may mean that I have to change the way I am currently behaving and that takes energy and time. Questions like “how can I put other’s needs above my own?” “how can I love God better?” “how can I love my neighbor better?” “what would a great leader do?” It takes courage to ask yourself these questions and even more courage to follow through with the answer. I also realized that courage is not always flashy. Courage is obvious when you see a hero charge the battle field but courage can also be as simple as choosing to do something hard that no one else will ever see. For example, choosing to get help with an issue that you have been struggling with. It takes courage to be vulnerable and accountable. It also takes courage to serve someone in a way that you will not get credit for.
One other lesson I realized is that it is good to have heros and role models that help you to be more courageous. Some of the speakers were doing things that really motivated me to step out of my comfort zone and show love to people who are not like me. One of the hardest things that Jesus ever commanded was “love your enemies.” I hardly ever see anyone actually attempting to do this. But at the Catalyst conference we heard from an author named Jeremy Courtney who is often on the front lines of humanitarian aid in places like Iraq and Syria where it is risky to be serving. His advice was simply to move toward the people and the places that make you uncomfortable. It is hard to hate someone up close.
The last point I want to make it simple: love takes courage. It is easy to hand someone a water bottle. It is hard to follow up with them about issues they asked you to pray for. It is hard to consistently show love and grace to people who don’t agree with you or show you the same respect. It is hard to really love someone well and unconditionally even when they push back or betray you. Yet we have a savior who did this for us. Ultimately our source of love and courage is Jesus. The most inspiring act of courage that I can think of is God taking the form of a man, humbling himself to live among the people that he created, choosing to love and serve them as his friends, and dying on a cross to take the punishment and wrath of God upon himself for the salvation and life of those who have faith in him. “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” – Psalm 31:24.

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