I say who not what because I think that my fear is more related to people, than spiders or heights (though I am terrified of heights!).

And by fear of people, I don't just mean that irrational fear that I have that everyone on the tube wants to mug me. Or that rational fear of the huge bloke with the blood shot eyes whose gaze I accidentally catch whilst sitting at the bar, who is still staring straight at me when I dare to look back a few seconds later. When the Bible talks about fear of people, it is usually talking about that desire that we all have to fit in.

People can be a real help when we want to do what we know to be wrong. I find it much easier to speed on the motorway if everyone else is speeding. Especially if someone flies by me at 100mph,  I feel positively virtuous down in the 80's. (This is self-righteousness at it's most absurd. The murderer could feel good about themselves, because they are not a serial killer, using the same logic!)

But I find it much harder to speed if everyone around me seems to have decided today's a 70 day. Usually because they've spotted a police car ahead, which I haven't seen yet. 

This type of "fear of people" came in my first Bible reading this morning. In God's law in Exodus he says to the Israelites: 

“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit." (Exodus 23:2-3) 

We're to fear God to the extent that nothing about the people around us should influence our judgement about what is right and wrong. Only His word. Even to the extent that we shouldn't let sympathy for someone in poverty stop us from bringing justice to bear on them. We should fear God more than people.

There was fear of people in my second Bible reading this morning as well:

"Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people." (Luke 22:1-2)

Here "fear of people" is the reason that the Jewish religious authorities want to kill Jesus. He's denying their authority. Taking their influence. Disturbing their comfortable position of power. They like having the people just where they want them, and so however much good Jesus does, however wise his teaching, however great his love, however overwhelming the evidence that he is the Messiah - he's got to go!

Sadly it can be a similar fear of people that stops people investigating the person of Jesus for themselves. The cost of following him, the potential public ridicule, the loss of friends or even family favour, mean that Jesus is too risky to take seriously.

But those of us who know Christ can also avoid being known as his, because we fear people like this. We don't let colleagues at work know that we're Christians. We live two lives. One in the office and on the sports pitch, and another in church and Bible study group.

When we fear people like that we show that we value their love more than God's love. That's why it's only a greater experience of God's grace that conquers the fear of people. Because it is only when we love Jesus more than people, that we will be willing to stand out from the crowd for his sake.

 

 

 

 

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