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Musings from Mountains & Valleys- Courage

Courage is knowing what not to fear.

- Plato

…and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.”

Philippians 1:14

Fear is a fundamental part of who we are as sentient beings. It resides in the Amygdala area of our brains, which is sometimes called the “reptilian brain,” because it is the oldest part of the brain. This third innermost part of the brain is responsible for 90% of decision making and it controls the fight or flight response. Because this part of the brain reacts superfast, your ancestors survived. But the downside is that this part of the brain tends to literally be a “mind unto itself” and is hard to control. This explains a lot about driving in New Jersey, navigating check-out lines, sports fans in general, and the House of Representatives in particular.

But we can be more than our reptilian brain. Paul is literally in chains waiting for a trial that ultimately will end in his execution and the young struggling church faces opposition on multiple fronts. But rather than retreat into hiding, Paul and others are boldly sharing the good news that the love of God in Christ can cast out all fear. We are animals with a long and complex evolutionary history, but we are also the children of God, created in the Divine image and recreated to be part of the redemption of the cosmos.

In a world where tribal hatred is fed by primal fear and public lies, we as Christians must recommit to speaking the “word” with clarity and courage. Our courage is found in Christ’s promise to be with us always despite and during the inevitable trouble we face in this life. We might even be able to survive the NJ Turnpike without breaking any commandments.


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