Monica Friesen nation & world layout editor
I once heard a pastor describe Christians as having two faces: the face of a lion and the face of a lamb. Every Christian is to possess within herself great strength and courage and great gentleness, poise and grace. When it comes to leadership, sometimes it is necessary to harness the power and fortitude of a lion and other times we must submit to others with the humility and peacefulness of a lamb.
It’s easy to sway from one extreme to the other. Most people know someone who’s so nice people constantly take advantage of him. His servant-heartedness and willingness to do things for people is admirable, but perhaps not appropriate when he fails to stand up for himself. Most of us can also think of someone who is the champion and advocate of the weak and vulnerable — someone who is bold, confident and inexhaustible in pursuing justice. Also admirable, but not when it involves making demands and walking all over others.
Sometimes the best way to influence a person is through gentle persuasion, a calm and patient bidding to something greater. The Holy Spirit often works this way in our hearts — pulling us along slowly and patiently to change us. Yet there are times where a strong and commanding presence is necessary.
Paul told Timothy that he was not to tolerate any false doctrine in the church, and was not above directly naming heretics (1 Timothy 1:3-7, 20). Daniel refused to eat the king’s food on the basis that it would defile him (Daniel 1:8) and Job “broke the fangs of the wicked” to rescue the weak (Job 29:17). When it comes to maintaining our morals and standing up for the truth, we should not back down or submit. To be “humble” in such a situation would be to compromise and bring more harm than good. We should always be ready to lead others away from sin, stand up for the needy, and resist those who pressure us to deny what’s right.
However, even when confronting those who oppose us for standing firm for the truth, we need to treat them with respect. According to Paul, correcting an opponent with gentleness is a defining characteristic of the Lord’s servant (2 Timothy 2:25). We are also to respond with gentleness to those who question our faith and those we have an opportunity to witness to (1 Peter 3:15).
As for those who have been placed in authority over us, we are to submit to them as well, provided we don’t violate scripture when we do. Even those who are harsh deserve our submission out of respect for the authority they have over us (1 Peter 2:12-18), but we should recognize that God is the highest authority that we submit to and our submission to others comes first out of a submission to Him.
Strength and humility, courage and gentleness, the face of the lion and the face of the lamb are two sides of the same coin. People should always be treated with respect, but we should also be ready to stand up for the truth with courage and boldness.