I watch with a quiet horror as the men in Ukraine put their families on trains and buses, trying to get them to safety.
Husbands hug their wives as wives sob into their husband’s shoulders. Fathers squeeze their children so hard — hard enough, the father prays, that the love in the hugs will last a lifetime, in case the father doesn’t make it back. The Russians have invaded their homeland. Every abled body man has been called to the front. Husbands, fathers, grandfathers, and brothers have all grabbed their weapons and marched to the front.
The Russians will probably win this war. They have too many tanks, too many airplanes, too many rockets. A lot of these Ukrainian men won’t make it home. They know this. Everybody knows this, but off they go. Accountants and teachers, farmers and lawyers, mechanics, and programmers — all responding to their nation’s call to fight for freedom.
I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like for me to put my wife, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren on a train or bus to another country, walk to the front lines with my sons and prepare for battle with the Russian forces knowing I would probably never see them again. Sooner or later, a bomb would drop too close…a rocket would explode too near.
The last picture I would have of my family was of them driving away. The last picture they would have of me would be me walking back to the war. That scenario haunts me. I want to know if I would be brave?
To be honest, I haven’t had many moments in my life that required me to be brave. I’ve never had to make a stand against the bullies or face off against the bad guys. I wonder if I would have had the guts to make my stand? Would I be brave?
What if I had been with Bonhoeffer when he opposed Hitler. Would I have been brave? Would I have endured the concentration camps for the sake of Christ? I would like to think I would, but then again, you never really know. What about when Martin Luther King, Jr was marching? Would I have left my church to march with him for civil rights? I probably would have been fired from my church, but would I have been brave? Would I have been willing to take that risk? To risk the lives of my family?
Would I have been brave?
Lent is the moment when we think about how brave Jesus was as he faced the cross. We meditate on Christ sharing the Supper with His disciples, holding the bread and cup knowing how real the message of the Supper would be in the hours that followed. We watch His agony in the Garden, whispering to His Father, “Not My will but Yours,” and we’re left to wonder, given the same situation, if we would pray that prayer. If we knew the soldiers were coming, would we surrender to God’s ways or would we insist our lives be protected at all costs? Would we have followed Jesus into the arresting hands of the Roman soldiers, or would we have melted away into the crowd with the rest of his followers? Would we have been brave?
For that matter, are we brave now?
When the world asks us if we are one of the Nazarene’s followers, do we own our relationship with Christ? Or do we argue loudly, like Peter, denying we even know Jesus at all? Would we stand by His cross, unashamed of His death, confident God was working in it all even when we couldn’t make any sense of it? Would we stand by Jesus as He died, making sure He knew He wasn’t dying alone, or would we hide, silently thanking God we weren’t being crucified as well?
Allan Boesak, the South African civil rights leader has a famous quote. It goes like this:
When we go before Him, God will ask, "Where are your wounds?" And we will say, "I have no wounds." And God will ask, "Was there nothing worth fighting for?
Yes, there are things worth fighting for — families in distress, lost young adults, and struggling students. Pick your battle and get in the fight. I pray that when generations look back on us, they’ll say we faced our challenges and when we did, we were brave.