When I heard that Senator Ted Kennedy had a brain tumor, which has since been revealed as malignant, I prayed for his conversion, and urged other Christians to do the same. I pray that God uses this to get Kennedy's attention, convict him of his sins against God, open his eyes to the truth, and lead him to repentant faith in Jesus Christ alone as Savior and Lord.
So comes this headline: BRAVE TED IN FIGHT OF HIS LIFE. The article tells us that the ailing senator "put on a brave face." Earlier I read elsewhere of how "brave" Kennedy is being in the face of this diagnosis.
Then Peter Wehner at National Review speaks of the courage and grit and grace Kennedy showed in his speech at the Democratic convention Monday night.
There are times when bravery is wise, appropriate, manly.
For instance, if you're in a car that goes into a river, it would be brave to do everything you could humanly do and more to save the life of the woman with you.
Or if you're a leader in a party that is taking immoral, evil policies; and if you knew better; and if you knew you'd suffer for using your position to oppose the wrongheaded leadership to oppose those policies and advocate their opposite with all your might — doing so, regardless, would be brave.
To expend your fortune, name, reputation, connections, in defense of the defenseless unborn, though it alienates former allies — that would be brave.
But sometimes bravery is inappropriate, and foolish to the point of insanity.
For instance, in facing a death for which we are in no way prepared.
All of us face death. We share that with Senator Kennedy. What sets him apart is that he's gotten a specific "Bill Due" notice. He knows — as we all should know, but choose to pretend that we do not — that his death is almost certainly imminent.
How should we face the prospect of death? With bravery? Or cringing, abject terror?
It all depends.
Death is inevitable, it is unavoidable, it is irreversible, it is final. After death we face the court date we cannot avoid, and stand before the Judge who cannot be Borked, fooled, evaded, impeached, overpowered, nor overruled. From this court there will be no appeal. Its rulings — His rulings — are final, in the fullest and most thunderous sense of that word.
So what if we are going into that trial with blood on our hands? With a legacy of opposing the values that Judge loves, and advocating, practicing, protecting those things He hates? What if we lived a long life in a land with easy access to the Word of that Judge, but we chose, all our lives, to despise, spurn, ignore that Word? What if we sniff at that very goodness of God which was meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4)? What if we squander a long and privileged lifetime of opportunities to repent?
Shall we face that prospect "bravely"?
In that case, "bravery" is the last and most foolhardy response.
The proper response would be heartfelt repentance, self-humbling and self-abasement, faith in Jesus Christ who alone can save us from all our sins. Then, after that, we would employ every remaining moment and resource in reversing damage we'd done in our lives.
Then, and then only, could we face death not only bravely, but with well-grounded hope.
Again I say, pray for Senator Kennedy. Pray not for bravery, but for his first acquaintance with that wisdom of which the fear of the Lord is the necessary foundation.