I have always wanted people to like and accept me. When I was thirteen, my family had recently moved from the countryside of Virginia to the diverse, crowded streets of Queens, NYC. I wanted to find my place, and in so doing, I became self-conscious of how we stood out in our neighborhood as conservative Christians. Ashamed of my Mennonite heritage, I desired to be a “normal teenager.” I refused to stand up for my beliefs or share my faith with strangers. Whenever we passed out tracts in the train station, I would cringe with embarrassment of how we looked to the passing commuters, completely overlooking how the Truth touched people’s hearts. Ultimately, I allowed the fear of people to overrule my fear of God.
A fear of people is simply elevating humans higher than God. Instead of responding to people out of our love for God, we often live out of a fear of people. We refuse to say “No” when someone pressures us to do something contrary to our convictions. We cringe when called to share our faith because of the possibility of people rejecting us or our message. Our sinful nature longs to bring glory to self and not to God. However, this not only affects our testimony as Christians, but it also hinders us from fully speaking the truth, whether in encouragement or evangelism.
Paul addresses these issues in Galatians 1:10 when he argues, “For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” The Apostle John pointed out that multiple authorities believed the teachings and miracles of Jesus, but they did not “confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”  1 Peter 3:15 commands us to fearlessly proclaim the reason for the hope that is in us.  As followers of Christ who are redeemed from our sin, we are called to love the truth more than we love attention from others. The early church, as recorded in the book of Acts, exemplified this lifestyle. Fearless of imprisonment or ridicule, they boldly proclaimed the gospel of Christ wherever they went. Even after they were jailed for preaching, Peter and the apostles went back into the public square, directly disobeying the authorities. Their answer to the high priest’s accusation? “We ought to obey God rather than man.”  This is how Christ calls us to live.
However, when we are bold enough to proclaim the message of Scripture or point out sin in a fellow believer’s life, people condemn us for being “too judgmental.” Because of that, we often choose instead to stay silent, fearing the consequences of what may happen if we say what we truly believe. Nevertheless, Scripture commands us to encourage one another as iron sharpens iron.  This includes pointing out the sin in our brother’s life, even when he refuses to accept it. It means sharing Christ with your belligerent, atheist neighbor.
Christ gave us the perfect example of lovingly sharing the truth. As we examine the life of Christ, we see that He loved people perfectly as only the Son of God could, and yet He never backed down from the truth. He pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  He publicly forgave the paralytic’s sins, even though He knew that the Pharisees would be quite upset with Him.  By focusing on the Father, Jesus never let the fear of man interfere with the work He was called to do. We too must remember that loving others sometimes means correction; however, the admonishment should always be done in love, never belittling the person, but forgiving them as God has forgiven us.
To implement that belief into our lives, we must first learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit; He is our Helper and the Spirit of Truth.  Along with heeding the Holy Spirit, we must give God the proper place that His character requires. When we grasp the character of our holy God, our petty desires fade in comparison. Security in our identity in Christ enables us to stand firm when someone discourages us from sharing the truth. Saturating ourselves in Scripture helps us to distinguish between the Truth of Christ and the lies Satan feeds us. Focusing on God and who He is, instead of on the opinions of people, gives the strength we need to be unshakeable on the truth of Scripture. In my own life, it was only after a year of reading the Bible daily and growing in my security in Christ that I slowly began learning that a relationship with God is more important than achieving a certain “social status.” I grew to enjoy our times of outreach in the train station and now find amusement, instead of chagrin, in the expression of the people watching us.
When we care more about our testimony for Christ than about what our neighbors think of us, we will rebel against the sin in our culture. We will stand up for truth and refuse to give in to where the world is heading. We will devote our lives to following the example of Christ, and everywhere we go, we will share our faith with others. Let us not forget Who has redeemed us from our sin and how He continues to sustain us daily by allowing us to draw our next breath. May we stand firm for the truth of God’s Word!
|Kristen Yoder currently lives in Elmhurst, Queens, NYC, one of the most ethnically diverse places on the earth. She is often involved in church activities and squeezes in college in her spare time, thanks to Lumerit Education. She enjoys reading mystery novels and missionary biographies and enthusiastically joins conversations about theology, cross-cultural missions, and personality types, to name a few.|
- The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982, 2016.
- John 12:42-43.
- 1 Peter 3:15
- Acts 5:29
- Proverbs 27:1
- Matthew 23:27
- Luke 8:21-24
- John 16:7,13