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Is Cowardice A Sin?

I think I can safely say that none of us would like cowardice to be included in our biographical material. Don’t hang that word around our necks! We could be called worse things, but being called a coward is a tough description to bear. If we are cowards, something is sorely wrong with our character. But are we sinners?

Consider the language found in the enigmatic 22nd chapter of Revelation. Verse 7 reads: “Those who are victorious will inherit [God’s presence and the water of life], and I will be their God and they will be my children.” So far, so good.

Then comes verse 8: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolators and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Yikes!

According to Revelation 22, cowardice is not only a sin, it’s on par with murder. I must confess that I was taken aback when I first read this.

Perhaps those who say that a sin is a sin is a sin–that God doesn’t categorize sin–that we do that–are right. But I can find no other place in Holy Scripture where cowardice is condemned.

We are told in scripture to be strong and courageous as servants of God and as believers in Christ. When we shrink from our duty to be strong and courageous in faith, love, helping the poor, promoting God’s salvation, and fulfilling the example of Jesus, are we cowards?

A dictionary definition of coward is: one who shows disgraceful fear or timidity.

A dictionary definition of cowardice is: lack of courage or firmness of purpose.

One more dictionary definition to consider–this one of cowardly: being despicably mean or unprincipled. Now that sounds sinful.

Rather than debate whether cowardice is a sin, perhaps we should focus on being strong and courageous in doing God’s will as led by the Spirit. If we do that, it’s unlikely we’ll have to worry about being called a sinful coward.

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