What does it mean to be brave? Does it mean you’re not afraid? Does it mean you’re assertive or decisive? Does it mean you take chances? Does it simply mean you won’t take “no” for an answer when you know you’re right? To be fully honest with each of you, I don’t believe there’s a simple way to define bravery. I just don’t think you can sum it up into a cliche or a chant. And I don’t believe for one minute that bravery is something you can measure in yourself, it must be measured by others. Like humility, calling yourself brave or humble just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It kind of invalidates the idea at a cellular level.
Since bravery is often defined by our behavior or our character, then bravery is so much more than a moment or a thought. Bravery is a lifestyle. It’s found in a person who consistently displays the ability to defy obstacles, objections, and even expectations. Bravery is inherently about swerving from the crowd, not acquiescing to it. Bravery seems to be the path rarely chosen, not the path trampled upon.
Yesterday, I sat in my office and I watched thousands of people storm the steps and halls of the U.S. Capitol building. Unfortunately, I was glued to the videos and the social media reactions like a child’s fingers after an afternoon art project. I couldn’t turn away. I was appalled. I was angry. But I wasn’t shocked. After all, scenes of rioting are nothing new to our world (and apparently our country now).
This felt different though. It felt avoidable.
I’m not a pacifist. In fact, I’ve stated here on this website that some of my most proud feelings in this world are attached to my family’s military service. And while I’ve never served, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, I simply never felt I was needed. I have no diversion whatsoever to justifiable violence done to protect the lives of innocent people. I’m thankful for the safety our police and military give us in this country to be anything we want lawfully and I hate the treatment many of them receive because of those who abuse their power and those who abuse their caretakers.
As I watched yesterday, what angered me the most about the whole thing was the justification many used to validate sinful activity – they were simply being brave. While I won’t quote anyone for fear of implicating someone in a way that’s unnecessary – the cries for revolution were ridiculous. They came from normal people, elected officials, television pundits, alienated citizens, and troublemakers in one way, shape, or form. Thankfully, some of the protesters in Washington cried out lawfully and should be praised for enacting a right that must never be taken away. Unfortunately, those voices are the ones history won’t remember. All we’ll learn from this situation is that some protesters used violence (as others have before) because their frustration had boiled over. And we’ll move on, more and more divided than we were yesterday.
I’m going to say this emphatically so there’s no confusion.
Not one of the protestors at the Capitol Building displayed an ounce of bravery. They displayed the opposite of that to be honest. They were cowards, caught up in the brutality of a mob and more closely resembled the group shouting “Crucify Him, Crucify Him, He’s to blame” in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago than they our founding fathers asking for representation and equality 300 years ago.
With that being said, the rioters from earlier in the year following the unfortunate events of George Floyd’s death didn’t clothe themselves in dignity either. Their looting and disregard for civility and order didn’t solve anything or make the needed point as well. It just exacerbated the situation even more like throwing gas on a fire does in the fire pit behind my house. But those actions, in no way at all, justify the actions we saw yesterday. Nor do the endless conspiracy theories that come from the deepest and darkest parts of social media and people with too much time on their hands.
It was gross, detestable, and altogether unnecessary.
Now that I’ve said my piece, I’m going to get off my soapbox and point you to real bravery. The type of bravery I wish more people respected and emulated. It wasn’t found in a revolution of any kind, or on a battlefield, rather a message of righteousness.
Most of you know the story of David and Bathsheba. If you don’t, I wrote about it with my good friend Ryan Scherer and you can read more by following this link. The people I didn’t get to write about, but really wanted to, were Nathan and Joab. They are the epitome and bravery and cowardice and still reflect it today better than most.
As a refresher for anyone who may have forgotten (or never knew to begin with), David was king of Israel. The unquestioned, divinely-appointed heir of God’s earthly kingdom. He was the giant-slayer, a man who actually walked the walk so many boast about. He was larger than life and actually a decent human being. He was even described as someone “after God’s own heart” in First Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22. David was the real deal, someone I’d gladly love to see my own son emulate (at least most of the time).
Uriah and Bathsheba were loyal servants in his kingdom. He was one of David’s “Mighty Men” and a trusted soldier (see Second Samuel 23). She was the granddaughter of Ahithophel, one of David’s counselors (who eventually sided with his son Absalom in the coup), and Joab was the general of Israel’s army (see Second Samuel 20:23). Not be overlooked, Nathan wasn’t a politician or a soldier that we know, he was merely a prophet, yet still one of David’s chief counselors (see Second Samuel 7).
The events are pretty straight-forward in the story. David sent Joab and Uriah off to war with the army of Israel. He stayed behind in the comfort of his palace. He noticed Bathsheba bathing and took her. She became pregnant and David tried to cover his sin by summoning Uriah back to Jerusalem under faulty circumstances. A noble man, Uriah was unwilling to go home while his fellow soldiers were in battle so David’s hope that he could hide his sin was doomed. After he was unable to hide his indiscretion secretly, he ordered Joab to abandon Uriah in battle so that he died. Then, in one of the most icky events in the whole story, David married Bathsbeba to “comfort her or care for her” and all is covered up neat and tidy. So David thought.
In Second Samuel 12 the story swerves and Nathan approaches the king with a message. It actually says, “The Lord sent Nathan to David,” in 12:1. After his arrival, Nathan told the king a story about a man with everything and a man with very little. After David learned the rich man stole from the poor man, his “anger was greatly aroused and he was ready to condemn the man to death,” (12:5).
At that very moment, Nathan shows us true bravery without any hesitation. He does what no one else would do, he told David, “you are that man!” in 12:7. As I’ve thought about the story lately, I’ve wondered, what if someone else had been as brave as Nathan before the prophet went to the king. What if the people David used to learn about Bathsheba had been brave, or the ones he used to get her, or the general he ordered to kill one of his best soldiers? What if any of them had told David, “No!” Could it have saved Uriah’s life? Could it have altered the course of history and saved Israel from Absalom’s eventual rebellion?
Maybe David would have killed them as well, but at least their death would have meant something. It would have solidified their trust in the Almighty, not His servant. It would have showed their true devotion. It would have made this story one that includes their heroics, not just Nathan’s and given us more heroes to honor and emulate.
If someone, anyone had been brave enough to say what needed to be said before it was too-late, could the bloodshed, the atrocity, and the wages of sin been avoided?
Maybe, maybe not. Maybe this had to happen for God’s Will to be accomplished, but I don’t believe our Creator would’ve been trapped by the actions of one man into a conundrum He couldn’t solve.
Maybe is a hard word to us, but here, I’m stuck with so many maybes. What I’d like to think is that maybe David would have repented before the collateral damage of his sin ran rampant. Maybe, this all could have been avoided, if one of God’s servants would simply have served Him instead of David.
To his credit, David did repent. He said in 12:13, “I have sinned against the Lord,” without any qualifiers or excuses. And the scene just a few verses later as David prays for that child really does enforce his piety in the face of a terrible situation that those very actions brought about.
I just can’t help but wonder how much better all would have been someone else would have been genuinely brave enough to tell the unquestioned leader of Israel, “you’re wrong” with grace, humility, and God’s blessing. If they had, Nathan’s story and message would have been unnecessary. When they didn’t, David’s sin ran amok and terrible consequences followed.
Today, I want you to be a Nathan. A man sent by God to condemn sin. But I also want you to learn that yelling, shouting, and grand gesturing weren’t the methods God used to correct a genuinely decent man of his atrocious sin.
It was a simple, yet poignant story told by a servant in the confines of a private conversation that changed the heart of the most powerful man in their world. And it was the bravest moment in all of Scripture outside of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross of calvary.
Let’s not confuse real bravery anymore with the cheap imitation we see on television or social media.
Hiding behind our political wishes, computer screens, and worldly loyalties don’t work in the Kingdom of Heaven. Seeing sin for what it is and calling it sin is the bravery we need to long for in our lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters.
We all want to be David, but we really need today more than anything is to be a Nathan in a world of Joabs. The world needs more of God’s servants than it needs adulterous giant-slayers or the blind followers who trust the leaders of this world even when they defy God’s Word.
We can be heroes, if we’ll only follow the right leader, the Shepherd who never forsakes us.