Boldness for God

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I was shocked and surprised by the boldness of the world famous NIKE company’s latest ad campaign celebrating its 30 years of doing business. The “JUST DO IT” company embraces all types of athletes, some with disabilities who have conquered their sport.

That companies have done that is not new, but to place Colin Kaepernick as the anchor to that ad was, well, beyond bold. In the thinking of many, it was foolish, exposing the company to financial ruin, some said. 

All types of people have reacted to that advertisement, as you know. Some said NIKE would crash and burn. President Trump said or tweeted that they would get “absolutely killed”. Some people bought NIKE apparel just to burn it and put that out in their TWITTER stream.

It appears, however, that that the naysayers were wrong. Nike’s sales are up some estimate by 38 percent. 

Here is the phrase of the commercial ad that really got my attention: “Believe in something, Even if it means sacrificing everything”. Wow.

Kaepernick believed in taking a knee during the singing of the National Anthem for his belief that the United States of America, — the land of the free and home of the brave— doesn’t treat all of its citizens with total and absolute freedom or equality. Black men are still being killed by white law enforcement agents in alarming numbers, and for me, one is alarming.

And it appears that the protest he started in 2016 has cost him his career as an NFL quarterback. Indeed it has duly been noted that there are many NFL quarterbacks who are playing today on one team or another who just don’t have the same skill set as Kaep, they are not as talented on the gridiron. While no one is perfect, it would seem that the teams who really want to win would give him a chance to do what he has proven to do before: take a team to the Superbowl. 

But that is really just an opening to what this is really on my mind. Nike is bold to build their campaign around Kaep. And he is bolder yet to put his life-long aspired career at risk by taking a knee. 

There are many a bold woman and man who, moved by love or their principals have refused to comprise and stood for their beliefs, or took a knee for it. Martin Luther, the Catholic priest. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. Eleanor Roosevelt. All risked something, some their lives to embrace boldness to stand up for truth and right. 

Jesus stood up for what He believed in. He stood up and left heaven for our sake because he believes in humanity. He believes we were worth dying for, so He came. He believed in sinners, that in His power, they could become more than that, they could become sinners saved by grace. (See Ephesians 2.8).

He was bold enough to overturn the moneychangers’ tables in the temple and bold enough to break the taboo of his day of speaking to a Samaritan woman whose licentious lifestyle he was well aware of. He was bold enough to be totally inclusive of men and women, and other racial ethnicities in his outreach. 

He was bold enough to embrace our sins, go to the cross and die, and then He rose again to continue being bold in the MHP, Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Tabernacle, pleading for sinners, and giving them a repentant heart that one day they —we—can live with Him.

He was bold enough to write something in the sand when he was confronted with the religiously led mob that brought a woman taken in the “very act” of committing adultery. He was bold enough to write something in the sand that made all the men in that “lynch mob” to drop their intended weapons of destruction and slink away, and bold enough to declare to that woman and all sinners, “neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.” 

So where did Jesus, living as a man, get this boldness? I believe He got it from the same source we have. He went to the Father in prayer. And don’t forget that Jesus knew (memorized) Scripture. 

I am sure that he knew what Isaiah said in 41.10 “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

And Jeremiah 1.8, “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

I cannot speak for NIKE or Kaepernick, but it is clear that the source of Jesus’s boldness came from God, the ultimate source. God authorized, deputized and mobilized Jesus in his mission, allowing him to be bold for God. 

If that is correct, then, that is the same source we need today to be able to stand up for righteousness, love and purity. All of the attributes found in Christ Jesus our Lord can be found at the foot of the Cross…. the cross in our bedroom or wherever who seclude ourselves to focus our minds on Jesus. A man cave or she-shack, we need a quiet place to daily go to God and receive the strength to be bold for God and His cause. 

Jesus was bold enough to connect with God and gain strength from Him to go to the cross. He was not fearless when he went. We know He asked the father to take the cup away three times that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. But he was so committed to redemption and salvation that he went to death for us. He believed in redeeming sinners so much that he died to rise again for us. 

How bold are we? Do we stand up for what we say we believe in? Are we willing to take the advice Kaepernick gives in the ad: “Believe in something, Even if it means sacrificing everything”. 

NIKE, after all, is about selling athletic apparel. But they have also given us something to think about more than once. Remember their iconic ad? “JUST DO IT”. 

Just go and live your life boldly for God.

Ricardo Graham is President of the Pacific Union Conference