When our ancient ancestors – the descendants of Noah – began to multiply, form clans, and spread abroad upon the face of the earth, they had a mandate from God to do so and the promises of God that 1) He would not destroy the earth with another flood, and 2) the dread of humanity would be upon every creature. Nevertheless, their expansion came to a halt when they reached a plain in Shinar and decided it was the ideal location to huddle together and construct a great city with a tower that would provide safety, fame, and religion. This displeased God greatly and there God confounded their language that what they refused to do because of fear they would have to do because of division. Thus the Sovereign God uses all tools at His disposal for the flourishing of humanity and for the glory of His Name. He can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. ”CS Lewis, the Screwtape Letters
The desire for safety and security is not an intrinsically evil desire, but it is a desire that can become easily twisted. We are a risk averse people, at least in ways that matter. We easily put our trust in walls and fences – emotional and physical – while failing to trust in the One whose Name is Faithful and True. Human nature dictates that new risks are weighted differently than old risks, so that for many the fear of leaving a stable, albeit miserable job, is terrifying while the risk of wasting one’s talents and opportunities at that job are minimized. The counsel of Jesus that whoever saves His life will lose it and those who lose their life for His sake will find it is full of gospel for everyday circumstances as well as it is for eternity.
The Christian is not foolhardy; he simply has a different metric for risk assessment. There are eternal dangers that outweigh temporal dangers. Losing an eye is a great loss, but it does not compare to losing one’s soul. Wasting your life on the pleasures of this life is a far greater danger than poverty and sickness endured for the sake of the Cross. Undergirding this mentality is the firm conviction that the promises of God provide more safety than the structures of man, which is why Abraham was commended for his faith. Unlike the builders of Babel, he was willing to leave behind what appeared to be safe and secure for the apparent dangers and distress of a nomadic life seeking after God. And yet in that place of obedience he discovered that God was his shield and his exceeding great reward.
What would the Christian world look like if we had moral courage? It would look like an abandonment of safety structures the world offers in education and in employment. It would look like cuts and bruises on the arms and legs of our children as they swing from dubious rope swings they have constructed and leap from heights they are not prepared for. It would look like failed hopes and dreams of virtuous people who have strength to try again. It would look like tearful goodbyes as children leave that place of safety and nourishment where they acquired the character to go into the unknown gladly knowing that the same promises that sustained their faither Abraham will sustain them in their pilgrimmage.