To one extent or another, virtually everyone has a fear of mankind.
- Maybe it shows up as stage-fright. Someone doesn’t want to do something public for fear that they will make a fool of themselves and others will watch and judge and maybe laugh.
- Maybe it shows up as the fear of stepping out to do something new. We crave the approval of others and when we think we won’t get it, we remain in the status quo.
- Maybe it shows up as a neurotic fear due to abuse by a superior.
The possibilities are endless. If we dig deep enough, we all have at least a little bit of the fear of man in us.
And it is so emotionally unhealthy – and unbiblical.
As I spent time with the Lord in His Word this morning, I came across the verbal exchange between Pilate and Jesus. The jealous, religious leaders had turned Jesus over to the Roman governor so that he would give permission to crucify Jesus.
From what we know of Pilate, he was far from innocent. He was a cruel murderer (Luke 13:1). He would do anything he could to keep the Jewish region of the Roman Empire quiet with his desire to gain Rome’s favor.
But, because he resented the fact that an innocent man was facing death solely because of the religious leaders’ envy (Matthew 27:18) and because of his wife’s comments (Matthew 27:19), he did not want to put Jesus to death.
In this situation, if I had been in Jesus’ place, my fear of mankind would be directed at:
- The religious leaders who wanted to kill me
- The crowd who was quickly turning into a mob, blindly following the religious leaders
- Pilate, who had a wicked, cruel, murderous heart
But, in the following account, as Jesus stood before Pilate, He is unafraid. Listen to Jesus’ words and see if you can discover why Jesus was unafraid of any of the previous three bullet points.
John 19:9-11 (NLT)
“He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, ‘Where are you from?’
But Jesus gave no answer.
‘Why don’t you talk to me?’ Pilate demanded. ‘Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?’
Then Jesus said, ‘You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.'”
Jesus’ courage was found in the fact that regardless of who was out to get Him, they could do absolutely nothing if God didn’t initiate it or allow it.
This can be such a comforting truth when we realize that nothing, absolutely nothing(!), can happen to us unless God initiates it or allows it. Even with mankind’s free will to do as he pleases, he can do nothing to us unless God approves.
When we look at Jesus’ example, we see that He was so convinced of God’s sovereign control over the events of life that He had no fear of mankind.
Pilate didn’t scare Him.
The Jewish religious leaders didn’t scare Him.
The crowd didn’t scare Him.
And it was because He knew that they could do nothing unless God allowed it.
Friend, we can develop this mentality, too. But, it takes faith. We must believe what the Bible presents as true – that God is reigning supreme over all things and all people.
So, the question really becomes: Do we fear God or mankind?
He who fears God need fear no man!
But, I would be remiss if I didn’t address a difficult question in regard to this truth.
This can also be a very difficult truth, especially when we think about situations where people have been horribly abused by another. Someone who was molested by a father, or raped by a criminal, or experienced the untimely death of a young child … these sort of scenarios are hard to reconcile with the truth of God’s sovereign control.
If we are not careful, our belief that God must approve of what happens to us can cause us to get angry at Him when tragedy strikes.
“If God is in control, He could have stopped this tragedy before it happened … but He didn’t! Why?!”
As I said, this is a difficult thing to reconcile.
To get some needed perspective, all we need to do is look back at Jesus’ example. He made His comment about God’s sovereign control after He had been brutally whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails exposing some of his bones (Psalm 22:1, 17) and as a crown of thorns was digging into his flesh (John 19:1-3). More than likely, He was bleeding profusely as this conversation took place. He gave His comment after a false, wicked trial had taken place and immediately before He was put on a cross to die a cruel death.
So, Jesus’ words were not empty. They were said in the very face of unimaginable evil done against Him. Yet, He was comforted even in the evil knowing that God was in control.
Friend, almost certainly we aren’t going to know why some of the evil that has happened to us (or will happen to us) was allowed by God. When we get to Heaven, we can ask the Lord. I’m certain that His explanation will make perfect sense as we look back on this life from the vantage point of eternity.
But, until then, we have simply got to trust Him and realize that He loves us desperately (Romans 8:31-39) no matter what may happen to us in this life … that He allows.