I don’t want to be driven by the fear of other people’s opinions and reactions.
I sat in the office, facing my superiors, trembling with nerves in spite of their friendly faces and my inner insistence that everything was all right. I was there to have a difficult conversation, and I was not looking forward to it. I knew that what I had to say could be misconstrued, and if it were, at the end of the day nothing would change, but I felt compelled to try. There was something larger at stake than my comfort.
As I left the office later, I reflected that I didn’t envy the Bible prophets. God was always asking them to have extremely hard conversations and deal with uncomfortable subjects. Isaiah, for example, had to tell God’s people that God hated their religious services because oppression and injustice were both perpetrated and ignored (cf. Isa. 1 and 58). Amos had a similar message (Amos 5), as did other prophets. God tried again and again to turn His people around and get them to stand up for justice, love, and truth (cf. Zech. 7, Hosea 4, Jer. 7). The intended audience often didn’t want to listen. In fact, Jeremiah was at the point of renouncing his prophetic ministry because he was so unpopular (Jer. 20:7-18). Imagine being in these messengers’ shoes!
Yet there are still times God asks us to speak to thorny matters, whether inside or outside the church. How can we as a church be unafraid to tackle difficult issues? The answer is surely complex, but I must start with what lies closest: my heart; my priorities; my motivations.
How I react to potential conflict reveals what truly motivates my behavior. It exposes the hidden priorities of my heart. If my comfort, my position, my prestige, or my popularity is my main concern, I will struggle to find the courage to address hard themes. But if my highest priority is love—first for God and then for others—I will find strength to push past my fears. As a Christian, I don’t want to be driven by the fear of other people’s opinions and reactions. Instead, love must motivate me as I trust God to take care of what happens next (cf. Matt. 22:36-40; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Cor. 15:58). Jesus says that the world will know we are His disciples by our love (John 13:35), and Paul directs that speaking truth must be done in love (Eph. 4:15). As love is perfected in me, fear begins to lose its power (1 John 4:18).
Is God asking you to have a challenging conversation? Are you afraid of how people may treat you if you bring up a sensitive subject? Then be encouraged by His words: “Do not be afraid of people’s scorn, nor fear their insults. . . . I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? Yet you have forgotten the Lord, your Creator. . . . For I am the Lord your God. . . . My name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely in my hand” (Isa. 51:7-16, NLT).*
May love for our Creator and for others motivate us to have courage, even if God asks us to tackle difficult issues.
*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.