My relationship with Christ never started to grow until I began to fear God MORE than I feared man.
I was paralyzed by the “fear of man” as a young teen. Like a typical adolescent I wanted to be liked, accepted and respected by others. I was able to observe from my adolescent perch that if I was to be an “out of the closet” Christian I would be asking for rejection, ridicule and ostracization.
Being an unashamed follower of Christ seemed like “social suicide.” So, I opted for the “secret service Christian” strategy. This was also known as the “Lady Clairol strategy,” like having a hair color that looked so natural “only your hairdresser knew for sure” my faith was so private that whether I was a Christian or not, “only the Lord knew for sure.”
As a 15-year-old in Hawaii at the beginning of the Jesus Movement “wave” I was more interested in the actual waves at the beach. In the process of doing that I dinged the nose of my surfboard on a jagged coral reef. Fortunately, I knew a guy who could fix my board for free. Keoni was very open about his brand new Christian faith. He thought every “believer” was like him. So, when he patched up my board he took the liberty, without asking me, to write “JESUS” in bold letters on its nose (front tip). Anyone who surfs knows that the nose of the small board sticks up for all other surfers to see while waiting for the next wave. I really didn’t appreciate being “outed” like that!
Eventually, I began to identify with Christ and do the things that would set me up for those “pleasant things” that I feared (rejection, ridicule and ostracization). Eventually that “JESUS” would be “sticking out above the water” in my words and actions for others to see. I started to speak about Him even though it was always a bit scary to do. By this time I learned that I didn’t need to be a “lone ranger” in sticking out but could be strengthened by being with others of like heart.
I have never totally gotten over “the fear of man” but I have learned through the Holy Spirit to not be controlled and paralyzed by it. No sane human being enjoys being rejected by others. Even the great Apostle Paul admitted, “I came to you in weakness and with great fear and trembling.” (I Corinthians 2:3) What I have discovered is not to expect an ABSENCE of the fear of man but rather a steady TRANSFERENCE to occur from one fear to a holier, healthier fear.
Why fear God? Because He is the One who planned before His world was even created that His Son would pay the ultimate price for us to be reconciled to Him. This same God has the power to judge us based upon how we have treated His Son, either welcoming Him or rejecting Him.
His judgment is just for all of us have broken every one of His commands, either outwardly or inwardly. The eternal consequences for our sin and rejection of the merciful provision of His Son for our forgiveness are TERRIBLE beyond comprehension. Also, this gracious gift to all who will receive has also made possible a forever relationship with Him that is WONDERFUL beyond comprehension.
Listen to what the Apostle Peter writes to suffering followers of Christ in the first century: “Do not fear their threats, do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:14-15)
As Christians we don’t need to be intimidated by the threats or opinions of others. Even if they cause some form of emotional pain we have a promised blessing for now and the future! We don’t need to be afraid of those who do not (yet) believe. Our calling is to simply focus on growing in our reverence to know Christ and then in our readiness to make Him known to others.
So back to that 15-year-old surfer in Hawaii who was annoyed about being “outed” for his “faith” in Christ. He was foolish to think that he could have a relationship with Jesus and try to keep it secret. The Apostle Peter denied knowing Christ when his faith was under the human microscope after Jesus’ arrest. But just as the Lord forgave Peter and took him back, He has done the same for me. He will do the same for YOU!
“Perfect love (God’s love reverently received) casts out (replaces) all fear (of man).” I John 4:19a, parentheses added).
Written by Jamie Bohnett. Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org