Courage is Contagious: A Timeless Word from Billy Graham

As I was reading- or being momentarily overwhelmed by- the headlines earlier this week (ethnic and religious cleansing, the massacre of school children by armed militants, international strife, cyber terrorism, prejudice and racism, etc.), I found myself at a loss as to how to respond. What could possibly be done to stem this tide of evil in the world today? What could every day people, like you and me, do in the face such daunting circumstances?

In the midst of asking these questions, and a myriad of others like them, I was reminded of a quote I had read, a while back, by Billy Graham; “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” These words so struck me- both their relevance and potency- that I wanted to search out their context.

I found them located within an essay entitled, ‘A Time for Moral Courage,’ which was written by Reverend Graham in 1964 for ‘Reader’s Digest.’ Fifty years have passed since he wrote this piece, but these words are no less true today then they were when he first penned them in era of the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. It is time for men and women of conviction to again embrace courage and take a stand for what is right and what is just.

I encourage you to read the excerpts below and, when you are finished, click on the link at the bottom to read the entire essay. Let’s allow his exhortation to make us uncomfortable, to challenge us, and to wake us up to the responsibilities of what it can mean to live for Christ in dark and sinful world!

“The world today, it seems to me, suffers not only from a lack of convictions, but also from our timidity in expressing those convictions we do have…. In the face of all kinds of conditions screaming to be rectified, too many of us find ourselves afflicted with moral laryngitis….

How will we respond when the challenge comes? Will we speak up? Or, failing in moral courage, will we keep silent…?

Christianity grew because its adherents were not silent. They said, ‘We cannot but speak the things we have heard.’ Nor did they stop with expressing the great faith they had found. They stormed against the evils of their day….

I feel sorry for the man who has never known the bracing thrill of taking a stand and sticking to it fearlessly. Moral courage has rewards that timidity can never imagine. Like a shot of adrenalin, it floods the spirit with vitality….

Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened….

Commitment to great causes makes great men…. One of Christ’s great commands to His followers was, ‘Let our light so shine before men.’ We are hardly Christian if it is not obvious whose side we are on….

The world is changed by those like Martin Luther, who cried, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other.’ The power to speak out is ours for the taking. The same Simon Peter who cringed before the servant girl’s accusations that he was one of Christ’s disciples later became one of those who, the record says, ‘turned the world upside down.’ Our world needs turning upside down. Even a small minority can do it, but it takes faith, and courage.”

– Billy Graham (from, ‘A Time for Moral Courage,’ Readers Digest- July, 1964)


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