For whatever specific reason, throughout the world, we Americans have a cowboy image. Whether it is because of our western, cowboy heritage and culture or due to our western movies, many people in the rest of the world regard us as people who are bold and brash, perhaps somewhat uncultured, but principled and strong. While we might stride into a high-society event with mud on our boots, we remember to remove our hat and say, “Thank you, ma’am.” When there’s work to be done, we won’t shirk our responsibility and we’ll do what it takes to get the job done, whether it ruffles some feathers or draws some blood. Maybe it’s because my Mom steeped us in John Wayne westerns and “The Lone Ranger” while we were growing up, but I like the stereotype.
What makes the cowboy imagery so appealing is the outlook on life that draws from living out on the “open range” with a stark sense of right vs. wrong and the nerve and grit to work hard and shoot straight to defend that freedom. Honestly, that seems to be similar to the freedom we have as Christians, though we don’t always live that way.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul seems to encourage his readers to be bold and confident because the transformation through Jesus is more powerful than what Moses experienced when he received the Law from God. Paul writes in verses 7-11 that if Moses’ face was made more radiant than the people could bear because he had witnessed the glory of God through the Law, then we ought to be made more “radiant” because we have received the Holy Spirit, God himself, into our lives. He writes in verse 12, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” Paul goes on to remind his readers that this boldness comes from freedom in Jesus: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
For some reason, even in the church, this kind of boldness isn’t always met well. Even though we have freedom, even though we have God himself living in us, we seem to want to maintain some kind of restrained refinement. Unfortunately, the life and the work to which we have been called, for which we have been transformed, is messy. When it comes to confronting this world of sin, there’s a lot of hard work that has to be done by people who aren’t afraid to get down into the mud and the blood.
But that’s the “cowboy way,” and I suggest that it’s the Christian way, too. Some might have reservations about how we do what we do and about what we say, but if it has to be said and done, we ought to say it and do it, “speaking the truth in love,” as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15. We might not be the most polished people, and we might come across as brash and uncouth, but because we have liberty in Jesus, we need to live with boldness, living in awe of the “open range” of God’s kingdom, working hard and shooting straight as we share God’s glory and truth.