Luke 21:20-28 (CEV)
20 When you see Jerusalem surrounded by soldiers, you will know that it will soon be destroyed. 21 If you are living in Judea at that time, run to the mountains. If you are in the city, leave it. And if you are out in the country, don’t go back into the city. 22 This time of punishment is what is written about in the Scriptures. 23 It will be an awful time for women who are expecting babies or nursing young children! Everywhere in the land people will suffer horribly and be punished.24 Some of them will be killed by swords. Others will be carried off to foreign countries. Jerusalem will be overrun by foreign nations until their time comes to an end.
25 Strange things will happen to the sun, moon, and stars. The nations on earth will be afraid of the roaring sea and tides, and they won’t know what to do. 26 People will be so frightened that they will faint because of what is happening to the world. Every power in the sky will be shaken. 27 Then the Son of Man will be seen, coming in a cloud with great power and glory. 28 When all of this starts happening, stand up straight and be brave. You will soon be set free.
Most scholars believe that the events that Jesus is talking about in this passage happened at the Fall of Jerusalem. They match fairly accurately with the historical events that take place, which is always kind of cool to see. But then we can be left thinking, so what can I take from this?
And the bit that caught my eye was this:
“When all of this starts happening, stand up straight and be brave. You will soon be set free.”
You see, even if the events Jesus describes have already come and gone it doesn’t mean that such things haven’t happened again and again since then. And it doesn’t mean that they won’t continue to take place.
We don’t have to look any further than Syria to see what it is like to have your society fall apart – to be faced with the untenable decision of having to leave behind everything you know to become a refugee in a place that would much rather you weren’t there or stay and hope every day and every night that you won’t be blown to bits in the cross-fire of multiple warring factions.
And even we who enjoy the enormous freedoms afforded by living in North America are sometimes struck – maybe by images of a hurricane’s devastation, for example – by the idea that our safety and our security are hard to guarantee completely.
So what is Jesus’ advice in the midst of our fear – in the midst of our terror?
His advice is to stand up straight and be brave.
There is this sense that we all need to show up – to bring all of ourselves to the problems that we are facing. A crisis is not the time to hide in the corner, to worry that we are not enough, or to allow the challenges to overwhelm us.
Don’t get me wrong – lots of people will hide in the corner and worry they’re not enough and allow the challenges to overwhelm them. But the point is that we’re not supposed to do that.
We’re supposed to be brave.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how brave I actually am.
I don’t do fancy tricks on my bmx bike like Nathan. I’ve never risked going downhill skiing, much less tried a 50 foot jump. And Rhonda and Erin can attest to how terrified I was that one time they got me on a tube being towed by a boat Tim was driving – and I’m positive they were going easy on me so that I could be included!
So if we don’t feel brave, then how is this going to work?
I’m going to suggest that there is a sure-fire path to bravery that’s available for all of us – and many of us already have experience of it.
The best way to show up and be brave is to do it out of love.
Because when we love somebody, it turns out, we discover that we are capable of doing things we never thought possible.
When we love somebody, it turns out, we discover that we are strong enough to push a baby out or get into a car with a newly-licensed 16-year-old or follow our partner to a new city for a job they love or find a way to be honest with someone about something we’re not proud about.
We are told that love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. And when we come to experience the love that Jesus came to show us first-hand – when we allow it to fill us up until it rolls right out and over into the lives of those around us – that kind of love can give us the ability to do what is needed in even the worst disasters.
Because when we love somebody, it turns out, we can stand up straight and be brave.
- Where could you do with some bravery right now?
- What area of life needs you to stand up a little straighter – to show up with all of yourself to the problem at hand?
- How can you lean into love to give you the power and capacity to be brave – in this moment, and in whatever moments come next?