If you are like me you tend to care way to much for what other people think. It is easy to become paralyzed but the opinions of others. Why do we tend to be like this? Is it because we need more self-esteem or encouragement? Nope. It is because we are sinners. The more I get to know others and the more I get to know myself, there seems to be a universal struggle with what the bible calls fear of man. When we care more about what other people think about us than God, then we have some serious priority issues. Jesus takes on this issue of fear of man squarely in Matthew 10:26-33. However, in order to understand what Jesus is saying we must understand what is happening earlier in the chapter.
A Great Commission Trial Run
Here in Matthew 10 Jesus sends out the twelve apostles as a sort of dry run of the Great Commission. He is sending them out to the lost sheep of Israel. He gives them specific commands and instructions on how to go about their missions work. Jesus knows that these twelve men are going to be commissioned to make disciples of all nations. The wise teacher Jesus thought that its best to let them ride the bike with training wheels with Jesus still there before the training wheels come off.
However, one of the things Jesus instructions them on is the reality of persecution that will come to them. We don't hear many sermons or messages about Jesus promises of persecution, but Jesus didn't hesitate to warn his disciples of what would be coming if they faithfully followed him. Jesus warns them of being flogged, hated, and ever murdered. Jesus tells them that disciple is not above his teacher. If they called Jesus the prince of demons (Beelzebub), what do you think they will do to his disciples?
Have No Fear of Them
It is within this context that Jesus utters these words, "Have no fear of them". For most of us persecution like Jesus is describing sounds terrifying. Yet, Jesus tells us in 10:28 a truth we must understand if we want to put to death our fear of man issues. Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Jesus has a way of putting things into perspective. Why would we fear other people? Whats the worst they can do to us? Kill us and take our life? So what? Fear God for he in his omnipotent power as the righteous judge has the authority to destroy both body and soul in hell.
So why then do we tend to be devastated when someone critcizes us or paralyzed to do something we now others might not celebrate? Why do we fear to take a step of obedience that Christ is calling us to do because someone might disprove? To fear men more than we fear God is really irrational. So here are three quick ways you can seek to put to death your fear of man issues.
1. Live for God and God Alone
First, we must live for God and God alone. If we are living for fame, friends, popularity, or success it is easy to be consumed with satisfying the demands of our idols. God must be our God. We must first and foremost concerned with faithfulness to him rather than approval of other people. We must realize that God is the king and ruler over all. He is the Lord of our life and therefore we must submit to him, for he wields the sword of divine power. We must never forget that our God is a fierce God. He is not safe. For he will judge the living and the dead. We must fear God. Respecting and honor him. We come before him in fear and trembling recognize that he is the Lord over all.
2. Expect Unpopularity
If we are going to live for God alone, it will be unpopular. Other people will not understand it. Sometimes even other Christians might jump in a jeer and mock us. Persecution will come. Thankfully, in the western part of the world the sort of persecution Jesus is describing in Matthew 10 we rarely see. However, in other parts of the world the danger is very real of flogging and even death.
If we are going to put to death our sinful fear of men, we cannot be naive to the fact that following Jesus can be costly or even dangerous in this life. We might lose our reputation or even worse. Persecution is to be expected and the mocking slander of men will come to attack us. Just as they attacked our Lord Jesus so to will we be attacked.
3. Remember Your Identity in Christ
Yet, we must always remember our identity in Christ. What is the antidote to our groveling fear of the opinions of others? Is is the Gospel. In Christ we have been declared righteous, holy, and pure. We have been justified by faith. Therefore because in Christ I have the approval of God, what other approval do I really need? If God has accepted me, why would I need the acceptance of others?
If we realize who we are in Christ, our incessant need for the praise of others will vanquish. We must remind ourselves those Gospel truths that the God who can throw our body and soul into hell has saved us, redeemed us, and adopted us as his children. When we grasp our identity in Christ it is liberating. The man or woman who firmly finds their identity in Christ and Christ alone is fearless. Our identity in Christ gives us divine courage to go, speak, and serve with Spirit infused boldness. Though we may be mocked, beaten, or executed by men, because of Jesus in the life to come I will stand before God accepted because of Jesus.
When we understand in this the opinions of others really are not all that terrifying. In fact, their completely insignificant compared to the divine significance of the divine approval we've been given by God's grace.