What is the best remedy against the fear of man?
(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)
"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" Luke 12:4-5
One thing that demands our attention in these verses, is Christ's warning against the fear of man. "Do not be afraid," He says, "of those who kill the body and after that can do no more."
But He not only tells us whom we ought not to fear — but of whom we ought to be afraid. "Fear Him," Jesus says, "Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" The manner in which the lesson is conveyed is very striking and impressive. Twice over the exhortation is enforced. "Fear Him!" says our Lord. "Yes, I tell you, fear Him!"
The fear of man is one of the greatest obstacles which stand between the soul and Heaven. "What will others say of me? What will they think of me? What will others do to me?" How often these little questions have turned the balance against the soul, and kept men bound hand and foot by sin and the devil! Thousands would never hesitate a moment to storm a breach — who dare not face the laughter of relatives, neighbors and friends.
Now if the fear of man has such influence in these times — then how much greater must its influence have been in the days when our Lord was upon earth! If it is hard to follow Christ through ridicule and scornful words — then how much harder must it have been to follow Him through prisons, beatings, scourgings, and violent deaths! All these things our Lord Jesus knew well. No wonder that He cries, "Do not be afraid!"
What is the best remedy against the fear of man? How are we to overcome this powerful feeling, and break the chains which it throws around us? There is no remedy like that which our Lord recommends. We must supplant the fear of man by a higher and more powerful principle — the fear of God. We must look away from those who can only hurt the body — to Him who has all dominion over the soul. We must turn our eyes from those who can only injure us in the life that now is — to Him who can condemn us to eternal misery in the life to come. Armed with this mighty principle, we shall not play the coward. Seeing Him that is invisible — we shall find the lesser fear melting away before the greater, and the weaker fear before the stronger.
"I fear God," said Colonel Gardiner, "and therefore there is no one else that I need fear." It was a noble saying of martyred Bishop Hooper, when a Roman Catholic urged him to save his life by recanting at the stake, "Life is sweet and death is bitter. But eternal life is more sweet — and eternal death is more bitter!"