Be Strong and Courageous!

by Insoo Kim

In 1955, ten years before the historic Selma marches, a man named Robert Graetz became the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Alabama. This was not all that significant except for the fact that Trinity Lutheran Church was an all-black congregation and Robert was white.

It was during his college years that he began to discover the extent of racial discrimination in our country. He decided there and then that he would not stand in the sidelines and merely watch. He decided that he would enter the story. So he and his wife, Jeannie, and their two toddlers, packed all their belongings into their car and drove from Columbus to Montgomery.

In God’s providence, it was just six months later that Rosa Parks who happened to be a member of his church was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus.

As one professor said, “Robert was one of the very few white people in Montgomery who took a very overt position in support of the bus boycott, and he and his family suffered for it.”

He was arrested by the police for transporting blacks in his car. They said he was running an unlicensed taxi service. He had a flood of phone calls and hate mail sent to his house threatening his life and calling him every horrible name under the sun. But the worst was still to come.

His home was bombed. And the mayor of Montgomery accused Robert of bombing his own home in order to stir up publicity. His house was bombed again. And it was almost bombed a third time. It was only by the most miraculous circumstances that the eleven sticks of dynamite tossed in his yard did not go off and kill the family who was asleep in the house.

Years later people asked Robert, “How were you able to do it? How could you keep going with daily death threats against you and your wife and your children? Weren’t you afraid?” Robert gave this response:

“I can’t speak for the rest of the people in Montgomery, but there were times I was scared to death. But we began to define courage as doing what needed to be done even when you were afraid.”

I don’t know about you, but for me there is a big gap between who I am and who I want to be. Sometimes the gap is big. Sometimes the gap is small. But the gap is always there! I want to be a better husband. I want to be a better father. I want to be a better pastor. I want to be a better leader. I want to be a better follower of Jesus. But there is always a gap.

I hear the stories of people like Robert Graetz, and I have to seriously wonder how I would have responded if I were in his shoes. I have realized over the years that the gap between who I am and who I want to be is not an intellectual gap. It is not about trying to fill myself with better information and knowledge. The gap between who I am and who I want to be is also not an emotional gap because there are a lot of things that I feel very strongly about. And it’s certainly not an opportunity gap because the opportunities are all around me.

The real gap between who I am and who I want to be is a courage gap. Oftentimes, I am simply not able to say what Robert Graetz said:

“Courage is doing what needs to be done even when you’re afraid.”

In about 4 months, our family is moving to Vancouver, BC where, by the grace of God, we will plant a new church. Over the last two years, God has been working on our hearts and opening our eyes to see the needs of the 600,000 people who live in this great city where only 3% of the population attend a church of any kind.

We have never been more afraid of anything in our lives. But we have also never been more excited. And throughout these two years, there were many times when we felt like giving up. It just was a few days ago when the thought crossed my mind, “What in the world are we doing?” And it is in these desperate moments that God draws near and speaks to us the words that he spoke to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Becoming courageous will not come easily for any of us. In fact, it will be one of the hardest things that we will ever do. There is no magic formula to growing our courage muscle. As Theodore Roosevelt noted, courage is not always spectacular or heroic. It is most often cultivated in the midst of the mundane activities of life where we are confronted daily with the choice to give up or to keep going:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (Excerpt from his speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on April 23, 1910)

Anyone who dares to live courageously will have the scars to show for it. May you live a life marked by such scars of courage! What do you need courage for today?

Insoo-Kim

Insoo Kim has been serving at Vineyard Columbus for the past 7 years as a member of the senior leadership team. He holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago and a M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and Rich Nathan co-authored the book, Both-And: Living the Christ-Centered Life in an Either-Or World. If you would like to support their Vancouver church plant or follow their journey, please check out the website www.LoveVancouver.org.

2 Responses to “Be Strong and Courageous!

  • Insoo Kim, than you for your courage and your obedience. May God bless your faithfulness. I will pray for you and your new church on a regular basis.

  • Jennifer Metz
    5 years ago

    Insoo, it’s been such a pleasure to be under your leadership at Vineyard Columbus. I love hearing you teach, and selfishly wish we could keep you here. 🙂 However, I know that the Lord has called you and your family to Vancouver, and could not be more thrilled for all of you! Know that we here in Columbus and many more are praying for your every need. Following Jesus is such a fun, exciting, terrifying (the unknown!), adventure-filled journey. Thank you for answering his call on your life in this season. Blessings to you, the Flory’s and the rest of your team. Be strong and courageous!

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