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The Plough Diet: Courage! Lives of Radical Devotion

March 28, 2017 by

Courage_book cover

“Have courage!” I’ve always balked at this expression. Every time I hear or use it, I ask myself, “How can simply telling someone to ‘have courage’ give that person strength and fortitude? Doesn’t finding courage take much more than that? Wouldn’t it be better to actually do something that could help?”

Doing something is our natural first instinct. And if there is a clear course of action that can solve or ameliorate a problem, why not? The hitch is that, so often, there isn’t really anything that can be done to change the circumstances, the damaging past events, or the future outlook of another person. I, for one, have often had to face my own powerlessness when confronted with another’s distress. That’s when I’ve pulled out “Have courage!”: I’ve used it as a kind of apology, a last resort when there’s nothing more potent – more encouraging – left to say.

However, in his introduction to the latest issue of Plough Quarterly,Courage! Lives of Radical Devotion,” Peter Mommsen points readers to the origin of the phrase: the sixteenth chapter of John’s gospel, where the apostle reports it as one of the last messages Christ gave his disciples before his capture: “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Courage comes from cor, the Latin word for heart.)

Although his disciples did not yet know it; although in the days to follow he appeared to have done anything but overcome, Jesus could see the final reality – that of his victorious kingdom.

This, then, is where true courage comes from, and it is this reality that shines through every story in this issue. Take for example Duane Bazeley, who never said a word in his life, yet taught his peers abiding lessons of manhood, love, and endurance. Or Steven McDonald, a NYPD detective who turned misfortune into inspiration when he forgave the teenaged assailant who left him paralyzed, and went on to motivate thousands of students to follow his example.

Then there is Chinese dissident Yu Jie, who gave up status and success to follow Jesus, almost paying for this decision with his life. And Cuban pastor Raúl Suárez, who used a chance encounter with Fidel Castro to thaw the dictator’s atheism. Evangelical activist D. L. Mayfield found herself humbled and changed by the faith of Dorothy Day. Further insights and life stories continue this theme.

God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). Even though all may look dark, we can be glad of heart: The fight is fought, the battle won, as the Easter hymn goes. Knowing this, “Have courage!” – “Take heart!” becomes one of the most powerful things we can say to one another, and demonstrate with our lives.


This post is part of a series highlighting books and resources available through Plough.com, the Bruderhof’s publishing house. Read previous posts in this series. Comments

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