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Our fear of man
- Jacob Ninan
There is a comment John makes in his gospel that should make us examine ourselves. "Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue;" (Jn.12:42). Many rulers kept themselves from believing in Jesus by telling themselves that He was a sinner or a blasphemer. But we are looking now at those who actually believed but who were not willing to acknowledge Him publicly or to follow Him. What hindered them was their fear of man: the opposition that might come up, the ridicule they might have to face, a possible loss of position or status in the synagogue and society, etc.
Let us think of some practical examples that we face nowadays. Let's say we are convinced that the water baptism Jesus meant for us to obey Him in is one as a believer who has experienced salvation already in his life. But if we get baptised like that we can imagine the situation in our church, family and friend circles. Or perhaps we have been baptised in the Holy Spirit and we experience some gifts of the Spirit but we dare not mention them openly because our church doctrine says all this stopped with the time of the apostles. Or we are in a church where different manipulations or excessive practices are going on in the name of the Holy Spirit but we go along with them because we don't like to lose our position or role. Are we so obsessed with the fear of man that we choose to avoid standing up with Jesus or speaking out for Him?
This is all the more serious if we are 'rulers' or leaders who are influencing many others who look up to us. Perhaps God has placed us in such positions of responsibility where He wants us to be 'lights' for the people around us (Mt.5:14-16). But then are we choosing to hide that light under the bushel so that we can protect ourselves?
The few who dare to throw off this fear and step out usually get ridiculed and penalised by the compromising majority. That may strengthen our resolve to keep ourselves hidden. We may even convince ourselves that by keeping some knowledge of the truth to ourselves we may actually get some opportunity to be useful to many people. Perhaps. But if we act out only up to the level of the truths that everyone around us accepts, when we have more to give, wouldn't we be giving up the opportunity to bless the others in a greater way?
We do recognise, at the same time, that sometimes we have to as shrewd as 'serpents' (Mt.10:16). We should not throw our pearls before swine who will just trample them under foot (Mt.7:6). Sometimes we have to run away from situations that might seriously harm us if we made our faith public (Mt.10:23). But let us also be honest to admit to ourselves if our motive is honourable in the sight of God or we are just unwilling to stand up for God. If everyone tries to be non-denominational that would be 'politically correct', but is that being faithful before God?