Maybe it looks like standing up to a bully. Saturday’s StarTribune told of bullying at Oak View Middle School, and how many more kids who witness bullying want to do something about it than actually do something. The article didn’t say it, but surely speaking up–come what may–is an act of boldness. Saying truth boldly empowers others to speak up as well. Bold communication often begets bold communication—but not always.
Take the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, for example. His bold speech had him yelling into the crowds about God’s anger toward people who refused to listen and follow God. After he spoke, the priest, prophets and people seized him and demanded his death (Jeremiah 26:8).
Jeremiah had spoken boldly, carefully saying all God had for him to say. His message—God’s message—was not well-received. But that didn’t bother him, or at least so the reader would notice. In boldness, Jeremiah simply said what God had sent him to say, that they should turn away from not listening. And that they should turn toward following. He also said he would accept what they did to him because of his message. But—know this—that if they killed him for his message innocent blood would be on their hands.
In the case of bullying, if someone speaks up, their words can crystallize what others are thinking and others join in—especially when many say they wish to do something about it, like at Oak View Middle School. For Jeremiah, no one stepped in until they realized there may be a consequence to killing the messenger. That’s when the officials said, “Can we re-think this?” That’s when they suddenly remembered others had delivered the same message (Jer. 26:16ff) without dying.
But speaking up remains an act of boldness. Maybe others will be empowered and come to your rescue. Maybe not. Jeremiah as willing to be bold because he trusted the God behind the message. That’s what I want bold to look like in my life.