by Will Dole
I’m a fairly bold person in that I like to do, say and write things that make people think. Occasionally, someone is offended via the bluntness—perhaps, I should say rudeness—but it’s the way I’ve always been and to some extent, it’s the way I still am. I’m prone to communicate an attitude which says, “I’m right. You’re wrong. Here are the facts. Deal with it!” Does that make me sound like a jerk, or what?
When I was about 19 years old, God really started to get my attention and I started reading my Bible a lot. I honed in on a lot of verses about love, and sometimes I would stop to reflect and think, “Wow, Will, you’re a real jerk!” Fortunately, this realization helped me to tone down the boldness a bit—okay, a lot. Of course, I couldn’t get rid of all my jerky qualities—not totally. In fact, I can still be a jerk with the best of them when I forget who I am. Yet, overtime, there has been a noticeable shift in my rudeness. That sounds promising, right? There’s room for improvement.
Recently, I have been reading through the book of Jeremiah. There is a noticeable pattern in Jeremiah’s life: He hears from God, communicates it to many people and then they react poorly. I don’t mean that they simply walk away and quit listening. I mean the people who heard his message beat him, curse him, want to kill him and, at one point, toss him into a cistern. If people reacted to me that way, I think even I would stop being a jerk. That didn’t stop Jeremiah! He kept preaching. How’s that for boldness?
When we consider the time Amos called rich people the Cows of Bashaan for their trampling of the poor, or John the Baptist called out Herod for the King’s questionable sexual practices, or when Jesus repeatedly challenged the religious authorities of His day, or the plethora of other examples in scripture—the aforementioned constitute only a tip of the iceberg—there seems to be something which could be called a holy or a sanctified boldness.
This boldness is often seen by the world as arrogance—if you don’t believe it, try claiming Jesus is the only way to God and see what sort of things people say about you. In my attempt to run from pride, which is an admirable thing to do (see Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6), I often buy into the world’s lie about boldness—not consciously, mind you. I am very quick to say that avoiding or hiding the truth is the epitome of an unloving behavior, but in my attempt to avoid being arrogant I can become wishy-washy on eternal matters. Instead of challenging the wrong views which friends, family, co-workers and even strangers communicate to me and lovingly pointing them to Jesus and the Bible, I often cower from such discussions or slyly change the subject. I reason with myself that I don’t want to be a know-it-all or that I don’t want to burn any bridges with my arrogance. Yet, in these situations, I am simply avoiding the truth and in my pursuit of a politically-correct kindness, I am basically demonstrating that I don’t genuinely care or love them. Wow! Now that really makes me a jerk.
So then, what is the proverbial middle ground? How do we find the appropriate balance? I believe it is found in the foundation of our confidence. Paul demonstrates this very clearly in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5,
“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Now, Paul is bold! Three chapters later he absolutely rips the church in Corinth for tolerating sexual immorality, but where does his boldness lie? Was it in his own wisdom, his own clever words, or his great capacity as an orator? No. His boldness rests in the power of the Spirit. For us to boldly and humbly proclaim “thus says the LORD” with a heart-broken for those who need to hear it isn’t arrogance. It is love.
Arrogance is when I want to show off my knowledge or prove my superiority. When our concern is that people see the superiority of Jesus then we are in balance. We should want others to know Christ and Him crucified, so that they may see Christ and Him glorified (Philippians 2:6-11).
We’re right to abhor pride and to make every attempt to kill arrogance (Colossians 3:5), but this does not preclude boldness. Indeed, it ought to foster boldness. If my concerns over my image, my pride and my ego are non-existent then what will stop me from boldly telling others about Jesus? What would hinder me from warning a brother or sister about sin? There would be nothing. We ought to desire more than anything else to see others grow closer to Jesus and to see many more people come to know Him. This will never be accomplished by keeping our mouths shut. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
We should be bold and set an example for others in this context. If our boldness is truly immersed in love then we should not be ashamed of our actions—however bold they may appear.