~ John Calvin
I recently had two discussions with two different people, on the same topic: boldly standing on the truth. This is a topic which is always hot, always being brought up in social media, and one on which any Christian in the public eye finds himself judged by the armchair critics. I'll not pretend to be guilty on that front; I am as quick (or even quicker) as the next to decry anyone who falters and fails, who sees the wave of pressure coming towards them and runs for cover.
But am I so different?
With an older brother, I chatted about the pros and cons of online debate, as well as how to approach a debate. One of the things which came up was the tendency towards personal attacks, or Ad Hominem, from my opponents. Simply put, an Ad Hominem fallacy is specifically an attack on a person's character to undermine/disregard their argument. When asked how I could read the things which were written about myself, and not have an emotional reaction, my answer was simple: the relative anonymity of the internet - sitting behind a keyboard - people are much braver, and more callous, than they would be in a face to face conversation. I added on that I, myself, am far more reserved in person than in written communication.
Another conversation with my wife had me reveal to her that I am so much more reserved in person, that I am practically a mute, when I should speak out! We were chatting about how to overcome the nagging fear which prevents a person from speaking up in Bible Study groups, which keeps a man quiet when he has the answer but is worried what a more knowledgeable brother might think of his simple thinking, which makes a man walk away in silence when his conscience screams "SAY SOMETHING!!!!"
J. C. Ryle wrote, on Matt 10:28 (do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."), that the remedy to this crippling fear of men is simply to fear God more. Sounds easy, right?
Well, our own Saviour knew that we would struggle with this, otherwise He wouldn't have told his disciples not to fear men, but God. In the parallel account found in Luke 12, Jesus continues to instruct His followers not to worry about what they would say when they were dragged in front of the rulers of the synagogues (it was a given that they would be!), assuring them that the Spirit would give them the words to say in that very hour. This is further guaranteed in the account which John gives of Jesus teaching in chapter 14, where He says, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send you in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."
And this is my experience also - not that I have been dragged off to the local synagogue.
While talking with my wife, I used the example of a real life conversation from a little while ago:
There I was, at work, sharing the site with another trade who had not yet completed his job. He and his offsiders were having loud discussions all day, on all nature of things, and the topic of religion came up. As it turns out, the trade's wife was a Muslim, and one of his workers a Catholic. At one point, the trade made the old familiar claim that Jews, Muslims, and Christians all serve the same God. It went unchecked. As easy as it is to be bold on FakeBook, my nerves were not so steely then.
My conscience ate at me.
For over an hour, I tried to silence it.
"They don't want to hear it anyway."
"The moment is gone, I can't just bring it up again."
"If they're stupid enough to believe that soundbite, they won't understand good reason."
Still, it ate at me. I was gutless. I was wrong.
So, thankfully, I was forced to swallow my pride - and that can take a couple of mouthfuls for a guy like me to achieve - and was brought to repentance. I asked for forgiveness, I asked for another chance, I asked for the guts to speak, and I asked for the words I would need to say.
As cliche as it may sound, I got another chance. God most certainly answers prayer, and this time He said, "Yes."
Not two minutes later, I was walking past the other workers, and couldn't help but hear them discussing the churches in Australia, and the trending towards liberalism (about which much has been written, but how damning is it that the world has noticed?). A little voice, which sounded a lot like my conscience said, "There's your in." And so I girded my loins and waded into the discussion. The very next thing which was said to me was, "But don't you, and the Jews, and the Muslims all serve the same God anyway?" I opened my mouth, words came out. Things I knew that I knew, but wouldn't normally say, came out, and that particular soundbite was destroyed.
So, what is the point? Why did I write all this? Why would I tell you that I have a crippling fear of men, and that if I am left to my own devices, I am no more than a stammering, blundering fool? Why show that weakness?
Perhaps some empathy might be offered to a fellow sinner who stumbled.
But, if nothing else, I would hope that next time someone asks you to help them hand out Gospel tracts, to attend a Pro-Life rally, to enter the great big mission field that is your life, you would take encouragement from knowing that it's not all dependent on you; that you won't feel able to use your own shortcomings as an excuse to stay inside your comfort zone. It's not your doing. It's certainly not mine.
It's all about Him. And that's the point.