Intimidation is a tactic often used to exert control or dominance over others through inducing fear. It can take many forms – threats, harassment, manipulation, or abuse of power. Though common in society, intimidation goes against biblical principles of love, respect, and self-control.
The Bible makes clear that we are not to intimidate others. Passages such as Proverbs 3:31 instruct us, “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways.” Intimidation often involves violence or threats to establish dominance. But as Christians, we are called to show humility and refrain from vengeance (Proverbs 20:22, Romans 12:19).
Jesus himself endured intimidation during his earthly ministry. Religious leaders sought to undermine his popularity and teaching through questioning and threats. They even used intimidation in an attempt to stop the spread of the gospel after his resurrection (Acts 4:17-21). However, Jesus responded with grace and courage. He warns his followers they too will face intimidation for their faith, but need not fear (Matthew 10:26-28).
There are several biblical figures who used their authority to intimidate others. King Saul bullied and threatened David out of jealousy and insecurity (1 Samuel 18-19). Diotrephes abused his leadership in the early church to have preeminence through malicious slander (3 John 1:9-10). The proud Haman sought to intimidate the Jews through his position in Persia (Esther 3:1-6). But in each case, their efforts were restrained and overturned.
The Bible makes clear that intimidation has no place among God’s people. We are exhorted: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). And again, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Intimidation thrives when there is distrust, insecurity or desire for control. But God’s love fosters trust, grace and mutual submission in the body of Christ.
There are several ways the Bible advises responding to intimidation or persecution:
- Pray for and bless those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)
- Entrust yourself to God who will judge justly (1 Peter 4:19)
- Speak the truth with love (Ephesians 4:15)
- Seek to live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18)
- Repay evil with good (Romans 12:21)
- Build others up according to their needs (Ephesians 4:29)
Ultimately, we see from Scripture that intimidation originates from the evil one. The thief seeks “to steal and kill and destroy” through lies, pressure, and fear (John 10:10). But Jesus came that we may have life to the full! By abiding in his love, we need not be intimidated but can show grace and courage in the face of opposition.
While intimidation is sometimes subtle, we must remember it violates clear biblical principles. As children of God, we are called to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), caring first for the needs of others. We must not compromise God’s standard of humility, integrity and compassion for the sake of control or out of fear. When intimidated personally, we should not retaliate but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
There are about 30 bible verses that speak directly to the issue of intimidation, fear, and courage for Christians facing opposition:
- Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
- Psalms 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
- Psalms 56:3-4 – When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
- Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
- Matthew 10:26 – So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
- 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 hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
- Acts 4:13 – Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
- Acts 4:29 – And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.
- 1 Corinthians 16:13 – Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
- Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
- Philippians 1:28 – And not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
- 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
- Hebrews 13:6 – So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
- 1 Peter 3:14 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.
- 1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
In summary, the Bible clearly instructs Christians not to use intimidation, but be people of grace, humility and love. While intimidation and persecution will come, sometimes severely, we need not fear for God is with us. He will give us His perfect peace and courage to stand firm in the faith, even blessing those who oppose us. We overcome evil through trusting God completely and doing good even to enemies. Our victory is assured through Christ who has already conquered the evil one behind all intimidation.
Here are some biblical examples of those who faced intimidation or persecution with courage and faith:
David – Facing Goliath
As a young shepherd, David was an unlikely challenger to the giant Philistine warrior Goliath. Yet he trusted God to deliver him, running toward the battle line to confront the intimidating foe (1 Samuel 17:48). His courage came not from physical prowess, but faith in the Lord Almighty. David became king of Israel and exemplified bravery against often superior enemies.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – Standing before Nebuchadnezzar
Three young Jewish exiles in Babylon boldly refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue, even under threat of death by fire. The king furiously commanded they be thrown into a blazing furnace, heating it seven times hotter to make an example. Yet God protected the three men from harm. Their defiant faith led Nebuchadnezzar to decree that no one should speak against their God (Daniel 3).
Peter and John – Before the Sanhedrin
After healing a lame beggar and proclaiming Christ’s resurrection, Peter and John were arrested and brought before the same court that condemned Jesus. The intimidating atmosphere and threat of punishment did not deter them from speaking the truth. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed salvation in Christ alone. The Jewish leaders were amazed at their boldness as uneducated men (Acts 4:5-22).
Paul – Preaching in Hostile Regions
The apostle Paul faced frequent intimidation including verbal attacks, physical abuse, mob violence, and repeated imprisonment. But he courageously traveled thousands of miles, preaching the gospel even where Christ was not yet known. Paul was undeterred by those trying to silence him, accomplishing more for God’s kingdom than any other early church leader. He repeatedly gave credit to the Lord for delivering him (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
How can Christians develop courage in the face of intimidation today?
As Christ-followers living in an increasingly hostile world, believers today may face many attempts to silence or intimidate them. Applying biblical truths allows us to respond with faith, not fear. Here are some ways Christians can develop courage in intimidating circumstances:
- Pray continually, asking God for boldness and trusting Him with outcomes (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- Immerse yourself in Scripture, gaining perspective on past saints who endured (Romans 15:4)
- Focus on eternity, not earthly troubles which are momentary (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
- Rely on inner strength from the Holy Spirit, not your own (Ephesians 3:16)
- Find support and encouragement among other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Remember previous victories God gave you in difficult situations
- Take thoughts of intimidation captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)
- Put on the full spiritual armor of God, especially the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:10-18)
- Trust that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39)
Cultivating courage is not instantaneous, but a lifelong process of relying on God’s strength. We develop boldness through repeatedly choosing faith in God’s promises over fear of circumstances. As we practice living “fearlessly” in everyday decisions, we’ll be prepared to show courage when intimidation intensifies. Keeping an eternal perspective allows us to engage earthly battles with poise, remembering they are only momentary.
How should churches support members facing intimidation?
In places where Christians face increasing cultural opposition, churches play a key role in equipping members to respond courageously when intimidated. Here are some ways congregations can support believers facing threats or persecution:
- Pray specifically for those experiencing intimidation due to their faith
- Provide Biblical teaching and training on responding to persecution
- Give pastoral counsel and encouragement to stand firm spiritually
- Connect members with others who’ve gone through similar trials
- Offer practical helps like legal aid or protection if needed
- Advocate publicly for religious freedoms if appropriate
- Remind believers their true citizenship is in heaven
- Send tangible aid to those imprisoned or impoverished by persecution
- Highlight testimonies of courage to inspire greater boldness in the congregation
Churches play a vital role in preparing believers spiritually and practically for opposition, so intimidation does not catch them off guard. Pastors should regularly intercede for those vulnerable to persecution and coach everyone on responding biblically. By supporting the persecuted within and beyond the church, the entire Body of Christ is strengthened.
Intimidation is destined to escalate as the world becomes more opposed to biblical Christianity. Yet we can take courage, knowing God holds final victory and our eternal security in Christ. When intimidated personally, we should not fear but continue speaking truth gracefully. Churches play an important role in equipping members to face cultural hostility with courage and faith. By trusting completely in God’s strength, not our own, believers can overcome ongoing and intensified efforts to intimidate the faithful.