When we think about courage, we sometimes focus on physical courage, the kind it takes to rappel down a steep cliff or take a small boat through a fast-moving rapids. We might even think of it in terms of heroism—running into a burning building to rescue a child. There is a another kind of courage though that is more important than physical courage. It’s called moral courage. Moral courage means being brave enough to do the right thing even when no one else will or when others make fun of us or persecute us for it.
The Bible is filled with stories of moral courage. Daniel prayed even when it was illegal and even though he knew it meant being thrown into the lion’s den. He and his friends refused to eat food that was bad for him, even when it meant standing up to a king. And more importantly, Jesus continued to teach the gospel and to do His work even when he was abused and threatened with His life.
While we will seldom find ourselves facing death for taking a moral stand, opportunities to display moral courage come every day. What do you do when your friends want to join them for an immoral movie, a beer, or an unkind prank? If you refuse, you’re demonstrating moral courage.
In Sunday School lesson books, teens are often given examples of teenagers who stood up for their beliefs and everyone admired them. In real life, of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes their friends make fun of them. Of course, if they do that, they aren’t really friends, so that can be a warning that it’s time to choose new friends. However, it’s still not easy to handle. It’s in times like this we have to remember who we are and what matters in the long run. We know what our parents and Jesus want us to do. Friends come and go in our lives, but our families and our God are with us forever, and the choices we make today will affect us forever. We know Jesus is a much better friend than anyone who might try to bully us into making better choices, and so we need to focus on pleasing Him, not them. Keeping a picture of Him in our mind, or even in our wallet, can make the choice easier.
As Christians, we’ve taken on Jesus’ name. This means we have to live the way He lived and represent Him well. Other people will judge Jesus by how His followers make choices and live their lives. We have a sacred obligation to use His name properly.
The easiest way to make sure you always have moral courage is to know your standards before you get into a situation where they’re tested. Talk to your parents and church leaders, study the Bible, and pray. Know what you believe and why. Practice what you’ll do if you run into a situation where someone wants you to make a bad choice. Then, when the situation comes up, you’ll quickly know just what to say and do.
You don’t always have to give a sermon when you turn down a request from your friends. You have several choices when your friends suddenly decide to drink alcohol.
“I’m a Christian, so I don’t drink, and I don’t break the law, either.”
“Hey, I forgot I promised my parents I’d be home early to help them put in the garden. I need to get out of here. You know how strict my parents are.”
Of course, having said no, in this case, you need to leave. It is illegal for teenagers to be in a place where there is underage drinking going on. Give whatever reason you want to give, and then get out of there. Once safely home, make a plan to find new friends and to avoid being in that situation again. For instance, you might ask your parents to make a rule you can’t be in a home where adults aren’t present. That way, if you’re not feeling up to just saying no, you can say you have to leave because there aren’t any adults. The rule will also make it easier for you to avoid many situations involving morality.