I wonder why courage is so often stereotyped as a male trait. For many, the word conjures an image of the lone man, defying odds, standing tall, leading the charge. John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage” profiles only men. Yet the most courageous people I have met were women.
For men, courage often comes crashing to shore on waves of adrenalin, or perhaps testosterone. That is not to say that there is no moment of truth, no brave decision. But it seems we are often rushed along by a bit of God-given chemistry to meet a situation that requires us to act now and think later. The courage I’ve seen women demonstrate seems more often derived from thoughtful resolve, even quiet dissent from the mainstream. Men often care too much about what others think. Women don’t seem as burdened by that albatross. Or maybe they are just more determined to move forward under its weight.
I know that I am generalizing, perhaps even oversimplifying matters a bit, but Mother’s Day is around the corner and I feel the need to opine. Contrary to the opinion of some, the Bible lauds strong women. Where would Barak be without Deborah, or Aquila without Priscilla? The “Proverbs 31” woman can bring home that kosher bacon and fry it up in a pan. She not only runs the household but can run a business—buying and selling to best advantage—at least as well as the top guns at GM, Ford and Chrysler.
I thank the Lord for strong, godly women. While the army may be looking for “a few good men” the church needs more than just a few good women. That is certainly true for Jews for Jesus right now. We are working to discover and train up the next generation of missionaries to the Jews, and I am praying in particular for God to raise up younger women to help lead us forward.
In the early days of Jews for Jesus, Moishe Rosen recognized the gifts of people like Amy Rabinowitz, Steffi Geiser, Miriam Shlicter and Susan Perlman. He never hesitated to give them important and challenging opportunities. The organization grew from the strength of these strong-minded, creative and courageous individuals, who at times outshone the men throughout the organization.
This trend of courageous women continued into the ’80s. I remember leading a team of our missionaries to Israel for a summer of study and street evangelism. Most of us, including the guys, were nervous about the opposition we would likely face on the streets, but as I recall, Jeanne Kimmel, Lisa Opton, Lyn Wein and Laura Barron were the brave ones. They stood firm and engaged in witness in the face of opposition when the rest of us felt like running away. I have long admired the courage I witnessed in those women, and I hope to see more like them stepping up for Y’shua in the field of missions.
Recently I have been particularly encouraged by the forthrightness and courage of my friend Janet Parshall. If you don’t know Janet, you should. She is a nationally syndicated Christian talk radio show host whose bold and uncompromising stand for the Lord is truly inspiring. Janet loves Jesus and she loves the Jewish people. But recently Janet took a stand for the Lord that will no doubt cost her some friends. She chose to withdraw from a speaking engagement sponsored by Knesset Christian Allies Caucus after it became clear that the caucus condemned all efforts to tell Jews about Jesus. The story came out in One News Now, in an article by Jim Brown titled “Prominent evangelical backs out of pro-Israel event over proselytizing disclaimer.”
In explaining her decision, Janet said, “there are some in the Christian pro-Israel lobby who harbor such a blind allegiance” to Israel that they even foster a belief that there is a different plan of salvation for the Jews. “That’s not true,” she insisted. “Scripture says there’s one name under heaven whereby all men will be saved.” Christians should not have to “choose between the cross or Israel.” (click here for full story)
I truly hope that some of the men at the forefront of the Christian pro-Israel lobby hear what Janet is saying and will follow her courageous lead.
But courageous women are not limited to that type of courage that stands against popular opinion when popular opinion strays from biblical teaching. There is also the courage to face danger for the sake of one’s convictions. This week we observed Holocaust Remembrance Day. I thank God for the courage of Corrie Ten Boom. She understood first-hand the cost of holding an uncompromising love for the Jews. She sacrificed her well-being and safety to love God’s chosen people, never sacrificing her principles or her stand for the gospel. In a world where compromise seems to be the common currency of the day, we need more people like Corrie Ten Boom who will stand for righteousness.
I also think of Rose Price, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who became a follower of Jesus. She is one tough lady who today remains a bold and uncompromising witness for the Lord Jesus. It takes a special brand of courage to bear up under such incredible suffering and then to willingly endure the rejection of one’s own people to tell them about Messiah. No wonder Rose has been asked to tell her story all around the world. If you ever met Rose Price you would never, ever forget her. Even if you can’t meet her in person, you can read her story in the powerful biography, “A Rose from the Ashes”; and you can watch a shorter version that allows you to see her face and hear her voice in the documentary “Survivor Stories.” (click here)
Ernest Hemingway said courage is strength under pressure. That sounds very masculine, the kind of thing you might expect from a man like Hemingway. I have also heard that courage is grace under pressure, which is an interesting variation on a theme.
Moishe Rosen once told me that meekness is power under control. This is an interesting concept for some who feel that the common depiction of Jesus as “meek and mild” makes Him appear somehow ineffectual or perhaps less than courageous. Few people would couple meekness and courage, but that is exactly what Jesus did in the beatitudes. The meekness He extolled takes courage. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” He did not mean that those who are weak, ineffectual or cowardly would do best in the kingdom of God. I like Moishe’s definition of meekness, but perhaps it can also be seen as courage tempered by humility.
There is a quiet courage, a humble strength that I aspire to and admire in others; and it seems to be more abundant in women than men these days. We need more of that kind of courage today in men and in women, in Jews for Jesus and in the body of Christ around the world.