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Asking the clergy about courage

One can't help but think of the courage of Americans in the military as the Fourth of July nears. But wartime isn't the only time one needs courage. We asked, "How would you inspire someone to be courageous?" Our clergy share inspirational words and Scriptures for all types of situations.

Rabbi Bennett Hermann, Temple Emanu-El, Long Beach:

I think the number one element of courage is to believe absolutely in the existence of a God, and believe that if you turn to him in a true manner, he will give you the courage you need to deal with life.

An example of this is found in the Book of Joshua (1: 6-9) after the death of Moses. Joshua is expected to lead the people in Moses' place. All the verses surrounding this time are inspirational, but I particularly like verse 9: "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

It is easier to draw strength and courage when you know that you walk with God 24/7. He is within you and is your guide. As he said to Abraham when he wanted him to leave his land, go forth, for I will always be with you (Genesis 12:1-3).

Whether you're taking a new job, going into battle or standing up for right, God will be with you, giving you the strength to have that courage.

The Rev. Eddie J. Jusino, First Presbyterian Church of Freeport:

Courage is a huge word. There is a physical component and a moral component. When we look at the physical aspect, we think of being brave. We think of one's attitude when facing difficulty, pain, etc., whether you move forward to face it. There are many examples of physical courage in the Scriptures: Moses (Exodus 1-40), Daniel in the lion's den (Daniel 6: 1-28), Queen Esther telling King Xerxes of her Jewish heritage (Esther 1-10)

Moral courage is the one that seems harder. There is a quote attributed to Mark Twain: "It is curious that physical courage is so common in the world and moral courage is so rare."

Fear is a normal human reaction. You must acknowledge that there is fear, but don't let it paralyze you. Own it, acknowledge it, and put it in context.

Then, realize you may not need to do this thing by yourself. Physical courage is often something we have to do by ourselves, but moral courage doesn't have to be. Those without a relationship with God don't know that he will always be with us and never forsake us through all that we go through.

Pastor Al Warren, Long Island Alliance Church, Dix Hills:

We need to remember the most courageous people in history were men and women who struggled with fear but did not let it paralyze them. Courage is not the absence of fear, but taking action and responsibility despite your fear.

There are examples of men and women in the Bible who were afraid, discouraged and full of self doubt, but were made strong and courageous to fulfill God's purpose for their lives. You can read about Joseph (Genesis 37-50), Moses (Exodus 4), Gideon (Judges 6-7), Esther (Esther 4:12-17), Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and the Apostles (Acts 4:23-31) in the Scriptures. When they understood that God was with them to face their most deadly circumstances, they became men and women of courage, action and integrity.

The Bible says, "Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love." (1 Corinthians 16: 13-14).

The Rev. Karen Campbell, Christ Episcopal Church, Sag Harbor:

If a congregant came to me and was facing hard decisions, I'd remind them of their baptism. In the Episcopal faith there is the Baptismal Covenant. When we baptize a baby, some adult is making the covenant for them. When that person is reconfirmed as an adult, he is making the promise for himself.

One of the promises is that you will strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of all.

We all must make courageous decisions in our life. If someone makes a joke that you don't agree with and you don't just let it go, you're being courageous. When you see an injustice, and try to right it, you're acting with courage.

Courage isn't just about running into a burning building. It is about the everyday acts of justice that we can all make. I'd remind people that when you stand up to your friends when they're wrong, that's an act of courage.

The folks who signed the Declaration of Independence signed their names, lives, fortunes and sacred honor. When we seek justice in our daily lives, we are doing the same thing.

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