This letter is for Brennan Joseph, my friend Anil’s son. He is a fine young man.


You’re probably reading this right now wondering, “Why me? What is this thing I’m reading?”

I apologize for the confusion, but I wanted to take a moment and scratch a few thoughts down on paper. I’ve spent some time reflecting and praying, and I have confidence there’s something valuable for you in the next couple of paragraphs.

Carmel and I named our firstborn Jacob, after the patriarch who wrestled with the angel.[1] We wanted to acknowledge that fighter’s spirit so from the very beginning our son would know God isn’t afraid of being challenged or questioned.

I don’t know you well, but I know the people around you well enough to guess you’re like my son. You’re a competitor, a questioner—someone who’s disinterested in easy answers and bland platitudes.

Fast answers produce flimsy faith, and the people who settle for simple solutions are often quite simple themselves. God has given you a desire to become the best possible version of yourself. Your desires to find worthwhile answers, to live with both risk and reward, and to invest yourself in passionate purpose are godly desires. You’re this way because he made you like this.

Like him.

I assume you’ve heard of the Knights of the Round Table? Those legends are based on a group of French medieval knights called Paladins. Their stories—most of which are a mixture of fiction and history—remain some of the finest examples of heroism and faith ever recorded.

In one such story, the giant Fierabras led an army into Rome searching for two barrels. This was during the Crusades, and Fierabras was an ardent enemy of the Christians. He wanted the barrels after learning they contained the balm used to anoint the corpse of Jesus Christ. This balm had been consecrated and now had power to immediately cure wounds. Fierabras found the balm, imprisoned many Christians, and burned the city.

One of the Paladins, Olivier de Vienne, went to recover the balm and rescue the Christians. Fierabras ambushed him and the two men began to fight. Even though Olivier was the superior swordsman, he could not overcome the giant, since Fierabras kept using the balm to heal himself.

Olivier realized he had to make a choice: give up and let the giant keep the prisoners, or deal Fierabras a mortal wound even the balm could not heal. Both options would have compromised the Paladin’s vows, so Olivier continued to fight. They fought all day and all night. They fought until their spectators flagged and the ground beneath their feet turned to glass. They fought until their boots fell apart and their armor hung in tatters. Olivier had none of the giant’s advantage—he sustained many wounds—but he would not relent and he would not kill.

They fought until all of the balm was depleted, and Fierabras’ wounds could no longer be helped. Once he could no longer heal himself, Fierabras begged for death, but Olivier gave him something else instead: the gospel.

Fierabras converted to Christianity, released the Christians, and atoned for his crimes before spending his final years alongside Olivier as one of the Paladin.

I’m telling you this story because there aren’t enough examples of heroes who could win their battles the old-fashioned way, but chose not to. There aren’t enough stories of strong men turning the other cheek, or fierce women going the extra mile. But the truth is it takes more courage to love our enemies than to curse them, more fortitude to forgive than to exact revenge, more guts to pray than to prey upon.

I’m calling you to become a Paladin. Your weapons will not be guns and swords, but loyalty, friendship, compassion, and bravery. I’m calling on you to take the hard and narrow road, avoiding the fat and lazy path of Western Christianity and the equally broad and cobblestone walkway of cultural conformity. I’m calling you to show the world another, better way.

In return, I promise you will get hurt, you will grow tired, you will feel at times alone, and you will have your strength tested beyond what you thought any human could ever possibly endure.

I promise one other thing.

It will be worth it.

Like Jacob, you will grab hold of God, and even if he tosses you all over the ground for the entirety of your life on this earth, you will be blessed.


[1] Genesis 32.22-32.