How many professing Christians have backed away from openly professing God?
| Do you think that any Christian believer has ever been embarrassed by God, or more directly, by Jesus Christ? If your answer was yes, I would be in complete agreement with you. There could be little doubt that this conflict has touched innumerable believers through the ages. But what is it to be embarrassed by God? What could possibly cause such behavior and issue such insult from those who have experienced those heart transformations of love, mercy, and forgiveness?
THE FEAR OF REJECTION
There is really no doubt at all that the foundation which supports such an affront to God is fear. Simply put, we are afraid of what men will think of us – or worse – what they will do to us. And, while the fear of physical harm is much less concern for most believers, the thought of rejection is overwhelmingly paramount. Look for a moment at how this fear of man is generally defined: A. An excessive concern about what others think of us. B. An inordinate desire for human approval or an intense fear of being rejected. This rejection by others can manifest itself in many ways. However, in whatever form it may be revealed, a fear of this anticipated rejection is that which fuels our great hesitation of standing out for our faith. The Bible speaks to the heart of this fear of rejection. In the gospel of John, we are treated to a narration of just such a case. Jesus had healed a blind man, and the Pharisees were determined to discredit those details of the event. They went about doing this by bringing in the blind man’s parents so that they might testify to the truth of their son’s blindness. We can be reasonably certain that the Pharisees had no real interest in the facts. They were, however, exceedingly interested in discrediting Jesus. Now here is where an observation of human nature becomes most fascinating. When asked to deliver testimony concerning those events surrounding their son’s healing, they refused to commit themselves as to how his blindness was healed. They knew that the Pharisees could have made their social lives very difficult if they confirmed that Jesus had healed their son – even to the point of expelling them from the community of the synagogue. The thought of this they could not endure, so they laid it on their son to give his testimony. These parents wouldn’t put themselves in danger of incurring the wrath of man. Many think the same way today. The Bible states elsewhere that many would not confess what they knew to be true concerning Jesus because they loved the praise of men above the blessing of God. As far as that goes, believers haven’t changed at all. They most often still run for cover when their reputation before men is threatened.
THE SOCIAL ELEMENT/THE HUMAN ELEMENT
As human beings, we were created to be social creatures, and as such, we fear the possibility of being cast out or shunned by our particular society. In that this fear is such a powerful motivation, it is often used by many religious groups to dissuade their followers from open disobedience. As this is true, many of the Christian faith, as well as cults, live in fear of incurring the displeasure of their brethren. It is of great importance and interest to understand that what we are speaking of here is generally referred to as GROUP DYNAMICS. When we engage this field of study, we are taught that the forming of groups is an inevitable part of life. The dynamics these various groups generate “are powerful, and can have positive or destructive consequences.” The group setting is a foregone conclusion of our social nature, and as has been stated, has the power to influence our behavior toward good or evil. The church of Jesus Christ has always been the most influential group in the world. Its control over the conduct of myriads of men down through the ages is genuinely staggering. For good or bad, the church group dynamic will prove saints or reveal devils.
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Under a focused scrutiny, love has everything to do with it. For the Christian, and quite probably for all men, love becomes the common denominator. Simply put, how and what a man fears will determine how and what he loves. If we love ourselves more than we love God, then we will fear what men think of us. On the other hand, if we love God more than we love ourselves, then it really doesn’t matter to us what men think. Of course, the idea of caring or not caring what men think, must, at all cost, be restrained within the proper context. C.J. Mahaney writes: “It is biblical to serve and please others as long this is not the primary motive or purpose of our actions, but an expression of our love for God…” Bible counselor Lou Priolo touches on the positive side of caring what others think. He writes: “To desire the approval of others is not necessarily wrong… To experience no desire for approval is to experience no sense of shame… It is the love of such approval that is sinful.” The Bible is replete with admonitions for Christians to please others, but always within the proper context, and entirely stemming from the catalyst of love to God.
When it comes to the love of self, we have entered a complicated area. The fact is, we love ourselves. The Bible, in comparing a man’s love for his wife with respect for himself, states, quite frankly, that no man has ever hated his own flesh, but has instead done all he could to take care of it. (Eph. 5:29a paraphrase) The kind of self-love the Bible is describing should be considered entirely reasonable. The self is generally understood to exist as the core of personality, or “…the almost indefinable center from which one’s basic being radiates.” In order to live happy, peaceful, and contented lives, we must possess a healthy love for ourselves. Anything opposite to this healthy self-love is egocentric or narcissistic. The egocentric and narcissistic are distorted forms of self-love wherein a man or woman considers their own desires, needs, and wants as paramount above the needs of everyone else. When such a one goes to any length to please him or herself, they will likewise go to any extent to achieve that goal. That will undoubtedly include doing what others want. This will become an inordinate effort to please others, but only with the most self-serving goals in mind. As you can see, it is all about love. We either love God and therefore, others, or we are in love with ourselves and no one else. Is all of this an oversimplification? It probably is. The fundamental truth, however, which reveals how one kind of love or the other plays its part in all of this, is apparent.
REVISITING THE ELEMENT OF FEAR
We briefly discussed the fear men have of being dismissed by the community of their peers. Allow me to augment this fear of man by reminding you that you surely have heard someone say that they didn’t care what people thought of them. For some social misfits that may indeed be true. For most, however, it is just a bit of bravado that quickly shrinks under the scathing gaze of their fellows. The Rev. James Alexander writes: “The world is to a great extent governed by a regard for human opinion.” How true that is. It is undoubtedbly a problem that all of mankind faces. And since we should remember that our focus is primarily on the Christian community, it is all important to be reminded of how this fear of man affects that grouping.
Mankind, apart from God’s redeeming grace, is a natural enemy of God. He has no desire for the true God of heaven. As an enemy of God, he rejects the true light of God that would reveal his sinful condition. The Word of God plainly states that “…men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” It stands to reason, therefore, that if the Christian stands up for the truth of God by his behavior, he should not expect to always receive the warmest reception. Well knowing this to be a fact, Christians are very often frightened of making their beliefs known. They shrivel at the thought of being social pariahs.