"A student doesn't get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn't make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, 'Dungface,' what can the workers expect?
"Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don't hesitate to go public now.
"Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.
"What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.
"Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?
I love the balance that Jesus brings here to what he says in earlier in this teaching. It’s never either/or with Jesus. He is not a dualist. Everything is both/and with him.
If we stopped with “don’t bring attention to yourselves” we could get the sense that we shouldn’t really talk about Jesus and what he’s done for us. But that’s not the case. In the midst of the wolf pack he says, “don’t be intimidated.” We don’t need to fear the world we can speak into it.
I think in today’s climate this is more important than ever.
Because we live in a day and age of hyper-tribalism.
A friend of mine was working for a presidential campaign this past cycle. She ended up leaving the campaign because they were banned from any critique of down ballot candidates within the party. In other words, “Don’t say anything bad about our tribe!” The staffers were in a sense being bullied into silence about things that they knew were wrong, misguided, or untrue being stated by those within the tribe.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter which tribe you belong to these days for this to be true.
In the context of tribalism there is a demand for absolute and unquestioning support in all things.
When you seek to follow the way of Jesus you find that gospel truth doesn’t fit neatly into the tribal boxes. You will find that whichever tribe you are drawn towards will eventually demand you to speak against its values at some point. Why? Because at their heart tribes seek to “other” those with whom they disagree and the gospel near its core is an act of “de-othering.” When find ourselves at odds with our tribe then there is a reality that we will be bullied toward silence. Yet, the call of Jesus is to speak.
We do not need to be intimidated by our own tribes and we do not need to be intimidated by other tribes either.
When we choose to follow the path of radical gracious kindness we will find that no tribes will accept us. You will be mocked, derided, and called names. When we choose reconciliation over revenge we will be seen as weak, sell-outs, and traitors to “the cause.”
When it comes to speaking our faith we must not be bullied or intimidated into silence. For us to have courage we must realize that our faith is rooted in our identity, the core of our being. In so doing we are able to be free from the wants of the tribes around us because we don’t need them because we have our faith.