I would be true, for there are
those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there
are those who care;
I would be strong, for there
is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there
is much to dare.
The well–known hymn quoted above was written by Howard Arnold Walter, a Harvard–educated American who ministered not only in his native land but also in Japan and India. Although it was written more than a century ago, it contains a timeless message for those who have dedicated their lives to the service of Jesus Christ. It sets out four characteristics that mark the life and character of true Christians.
I would be true. To be true means being genuine, as opposed to being false or counterfeit. It means conforming to a standard, in the way a musician must stay on pitch, or the way a bricklayer must conform to a plumb line so that the wall he is constructing will be straight.
There are many reasons for being true—true to one’s self and to God.
I should be true because it is expected of me as a Christian. I should be true because truth in my life refl ects the character of God. I should be true because I feel better about myself when I am genuine and loyal and straight than when I am false and disloyal and crooked.
The Prophet Amos reminds us that God sets a plumb line among His people, a standard against which we are measured.
Howard Walter said, “I would be true, for there are those who trust me.” That’s not the only reason, nor even the most important reason, for living a life that’s true. But it is a valid reason.
I would be true because, as a Salvationist, I belong to an organization to which the community–at–large entrusts fi nancial resources large and small. Because Joan Kroc trusted The Salvation Army, she bequeathed to us more than a billion dollars to be used for the construction of community centers across the country.
It’s because people trust individual Salvationists that the manager of a hotel in Costa Rica would give me $500 in cash to deliver to the Army’s Blind School in Jamaica.
We’re not only trusted with money, we’re trusted with people. Many years ago a Chicago judge gave a young man the choice of going to prison or to a Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. He chose the latter, and as a result he found new life in Christ, became a Salvation Army offi cer and spent a lifetime leading others to salvation.
I would be pure. In addition to expressing a desire to be true, Howard Walter wrote, “I would be pure, for there are those who care.” Again, there are many more reasons, and undoubtedly better reasons, to be pure in heart and mind and word and action than the fact that somebody else cares.
We should be pure because God commands it: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” We serve as role models for our children and our peers and our fellow Christians. Just because others follow our example, we should be pure. We should live lives that are pleasing to God just because it’s the right thing to do.
But the fact that others care is a compelling reason for purity of life. I have a loving wife and three Christian children plus two daughters–in–law and a son–in law, to say nothing of grandchildren and great–grandchildren. How could I possibly betray them by living a secret life of impurity? And there are scores of neighbors and friends and fellow Christians who would be extremely embarrassed and hurt and spiritually wounded if I were to be exposed as living a life of deceit.
I would be strong. The third desire expressed by Howard Walter is, “I would be strong, for there is much to suffer.” Every Christian, and perhaps more especially every Salvationist is called upon to suffer. Certainly our uniforms are not the targets for eggs and rotten fruit, as was the case in the early days of the Army. But there are sufferings which come to us when family and friends fail to understand our motives, when they believe, unfairly, that we have put self–interest above the interests of the Kingdom.
In such cases we must be strong—strong in the faith and in the grace and knowledge of Him who suffered for us, remembering that the servant is not greater than his Lord.
I would be brave. Finally, “I would be brave, for there is much to dare.” The 21st century is no day in which timid, passive, safe discipleship is satisfactory. There is much to dare for the Kingdom that calls for dedication and bravery, for innovation and risk–taking.
Every Christian has a responsibility to bravely face the foe. We are the people of God. We are the salt in a world of wickedness and spiritual, as well as moral, decay and rebellion. We dare not waver in our commitment to God nor to the people who look to us as an example of Christian living.
We need to be forward looking, but we need to be fi rmly anchored to the Rock, Christ Jesus. We need to accommodate change, but we need also to avoid any diminution of devotion, dedication or desire to serve Christ supremely and bravely.
True. Pure. Strong. Brave. Those are the standards for today.