As Christians brought up in the church, this particular young woman and her boyfriend struggled with their purity. Eventually, they found out they were pregnant and considered having an abortion. All kinds of thoughts brewed through their mind:
We know abortion is wrong, but it would be devastating if people in the church found out we were pregnant.
Getting pregnant out of wedlock is the worst sin imaginable.
People would never look or treat us the same again.
We can’t let anyone know we’ve been living in sin and having sex.
Other thoughts ran through their mind and they just couldn’t bare the thought of keeping their baby and the turmoil they would experience from others. They eventually made their decision and sadly ended the life of their innocent child.
This story isn’t a whole lot different than the real-life stories laced throughout Scripture that involve men and women who trusted and put their hope in people more than God. The Bible calls it the “fear of men.”
I’m going through a Bible study with my seminary wives small group on fear and anxiety and I thought these questions were very helpful when it comes to pinpointing what the fear of men might look like in our every day lives. The author of the study, Edwards Welch, asks:
- Have you ever struggled with peer pressure?
- Have you ever been overly concerned about your appearance?
- Have you ever been tempted to get plastic surgery?
- Do you find that your view of yourself fluctuates on the basis of your achievements or the opinions of others?
- Do you show favoritism?
- Do you ever say yes when you should say no?
- Do your public actions look much better than your private thoughts and behaviors?
- Have you ever had a difficult time loving someone because you didn’t feel loved by that person?
- Do you ever struggle with jealousy?
- Have you ever been scared to talk about Jesus with someone for fear that the person would think differently of you?
From time to time, I struggle with all those questions (some more than others) minus the plastic surgery one because well… that freaks me out.
The danger in fearing other people is that we allow them to control us. We make decisions based on what they think or say. We fear the consequence if we let them down. We put our hope and faith in them instead of what God thinks or would have us do. And it’s a bit of a “subtle” sin.
But thank goodness there is a solution to being obsessed with what other people think of us. And it comes in four beautiful letters:
L O V E
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18
Welch describes it like this: “God took all the initiative. He loved you while you were an enemy of his. He loves you now not because you are great, but because he is love. Such love is unwavering and secure. The Cross of Jesus- the ultimate evidence of God’s love- establishes it.”
God’s unconditional love is our motivation to trust in Him. He knows what is best. He is watching out for us. And he is guiding our path as he desires. And if we ever doubt him, we need only to fix our eyes on the cross that he died upon to remember His love.
When we look to Him, this world and what it “thinks” tends to fade away.
I personally know the young couple who had the abortion. For many years they dealt with guilt, shame, regret, depression, and major emotional, physical, and spiritual turmoil. They eventually learned that the people in the church they’d feared were far from perfect too. They just looked good on the outside and were able to say the right words.
While this couple still naturally carries guilt and shame at times, they have accepted God’s forgiveness and love and have forgiven themselves. They are open about sharing their mistakes and they’re learning what it means to trust in God, rather than in men.
Fearing, Loving, and Reverencing God more than men.
How liberating and God-glorifying to live life in such a way.