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Proverbs 28:1:  The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

In the Scripture passage above, what we see described is godly boldness. What does “bold” mean anyway? Here, the boldness described is the kind derived from having trust in God and a conscience void of offense. There is also a holy boldness we can have as believers to be witnesses for the Lord even under persecution:

Acts 4:31:  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

We are to speak the truth in love, including the truth about right doctrine (Ephesians 4:15) and even in loving correction (Proverbs 27:5,17; Matthew 18:15).  All these are examples of the kind of boldness us as Christians should have or cultivate. But what about the wrong kind of boldness?

We have but to look at the world to see wrong examples of this behavior. Folks get their pride and their egos hurt and proceed to strut around boasting about how they’re the wrong ones to be messing with. Those doing the “correcting” or “speaking up” love to boast about how they told so-and-so or how they’re not scared to tell like it is. They love to say stuff like “I’m gonna tell the truth no matter who it hurts or offends and if they don’t like it, tough,” “I ain’t afraid to stand up for myself,” or “Y’all are just a bunch of sheep for going along with such-and-such,” for example. While there may be a time and a place for that kind of boldness, usually there is not, and as Christians, how can we be considered to be speaking the truth in love if we sound just as harsh and as mean-spirited as worldly people are?

When looking at the example Jesus set for us, it is clear that He always told the truth but He did it with the love of God. He was truthful but kind to sinners, loving and straightforward to His disciples, and He reserved His toughest rebukes for the hypocritical religious leaders of His days here on earth. Even then He operated in holy love. After Christ’s longest and most intense rebuke of these leaders (Matthew 23:13-36), He still lamented over Jerusalem afterwards:

Matthew 23:37-39:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ”

The way we should operate in boldness as Christians, then, is plainly set forth in God’s Word, but a lot of believers, especially those who are not mature in the faith or in life, act the same way as the world does. They have the wrong kind of boldness. Like lost folks, these sorts of believers also wound people with their words. They prance and strut as they boast of their courage to say what’s on their minds and how they don’t care whose feelings get hurt in the process. These are the types of Christians who start trouble between believers, argue over every little aspect of Scripture, or want to settle their issues with their fists rather than with prayer and the Bible. Some are even brazen enough to want to be persecuted! I could go on and on about this, but the point should be clear: All these things are works of the flesh and not holy boldness. As they come from a corrupt source, they also produce corrupt fruit.

These harsh, pugilistic believers alienate people, even their own loved ones. Other Christians dread to see them coming because they don’t know what kind of drama is going to be stirred up this time. Close friends of these misguided individuals shut down and quit confiding in them. As if that is not bad enough, these wrongheaded believers cannot take correction, either. If they are called to actual ministry they are most unfit for it while still in such an immature condition. There is not always much, if anything, you can do for someone you know who is a Christian with the wrong kind of boldness. Pray for them, love them, but keep them at a distance and do not allow yourself to get in the flesh and thereby get pulled into the same kind of combativeness that they indulge in.

And what can we do concerning our own behavior? Honest, prayerful self-examination is needed. No matter how mature we may be in the Christian faith, we are all still works in progress. We can and sometimes do make mistakes. Sometimes we stand up to someone or speak out against a false doctrine or against someone’s unrepentant sin, thinking we are being Christlike about it, only to realize later on that we were not in the Spirit but in the flesh, exercising the wrong attitude and the wrong kind of boldness in our words and actions. We must humble ourselves, repent, and if it is possible to do so, apologize to the other person(s). We must remain teachable and always operate in love. If we are living the way God calls us as Christians to live, we will have boldness.

Remember these Scripture passages as well:

Proverbs 15:1:  A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 25:11-12:  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

Colossians 4:6:  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

John 14:27:  “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Romans 13:8:  Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

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