No boy likes to be called a coward, and some boys do things that are dangerous for fear that their friends will think they have no courage. Sometimes it is more cowardly to do a dangerous thing like that than not to do it.
Do not think that you are a coward because you are afraid of dangerous things. Some of the bravest men the world ever saw have been afraid, but in spite of their fear they went firmly on.
A story is told of Lord Wellington, a great English general, who saw a young man in his army who was white with fear just before a battle, and yet did not run away. Lord Wellington said: “There is a brave man. He knows the danger, and yet he faces it.” Another story is told of a soldier who was making fun of a second who was badly frightened just before battle. The frightened soldier said to the other one: “Yes, I am afraid. And if you were half as much afraid as I am, you would run away.”
The lesson I want to draw is this, that it is not cowardly to be afraid of things which have danger in them. It is cowardly to run away if you ought to face them. And if you ought not to face them it is cowardly to go headlong into them, just because of some other boy’s foolish dare.
I remember a playmate who used to bite the heads off the fish he caught, just because another boy dared him to. It used to make him terribly sick, but he was too much of a coward not to do it. Some boys take up smoking and drinking and swearing for the same reason. Any boy who does that sort of thing is a coward.
You have all heard of Abraham, who went out from his home in Ur of the Chaldees to find God. And you remember how he dwelt in tents, and had hundreds of cattle. And you know how good he was to his nephew, Lot.
There is a story told about Abraham which you will not find in the Bible. Abraham received into his tent one day an aged traveler. After he had invited the traveler to dine with him at his sunset meal, Abraham went out to offer up his evening sacrifice to God. But the traveler would not join him in prayer and thanksgiving. Abraham was angry because of the old man’s lack of religion, and drove him from his tent.
Later in the evening the angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham and asked him why he had driven out the old man. Abraham replied:
“Lord, he refused to acknowledge Thee!”
The Lord replied: “What! I have borne with this old man for eighty years, and you could not bear with him for two days!” After that, so the story goes, Abraham helped everyone who came along, no matter what his religious belief might be.
That is a good story for boys and girls to remember when they feel that they cannot forgive someone who has done them a wrong. What would become of you if God never forgave you when you did wrong? It is this spirit of forgiveness that Christ means to teach us when He says in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” If, then, you say that prayer and refuse to forgive anyone who has done you a wrong, you mean that you want to have God act just as unforgiving with you as you are with your enemies. That would be terrible,—to ask God not to forgive you. None of us would dare pray like that.