Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them.”
1 Samuel 15:24
This morning, I was reading this passage of Scripture and, for some reason, this passage became remarkably clear to me. I don’t know if this is right to say, but I felt pity for Saul here. I’ve been there. Sadly, I still go there on occasions. The fear of man is a powerful tool of the Enemy. Too often, the Enemy is successful in dislodging us from the pure path through peer pressure.
I get it, Saul, I really do.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been able to look back down the corridor of your life and see times where the fear of others brought about poor, maybe even unholy, decisions?
I’ve been where Saul was in 1 Samuel 15. I think others have, too. I think of Peter who after the resurrection had the incident Paul mentions in Galatians where Paul had to confront Peter’s hypocrisy for fear of those from Jerusalem (Galatians 2). The best of us are prone to it, and oftentimes for understandable reasons.
The fear of man, however, need not be a lifelong hindrance to the life of faith. It can be defeated. I’ve fallen in love with the way the Orthodox Church deals with such temptations: remember moment-by-moment the day of your death and judgment. This approach might seem morbid, but it is all over Orthodox literature. The fate of man is something modern society constantly tries to push to the back burner, yet death is an inevitable journey. Our entire world seeks to medicate us such that we forget we are but dust, and to dust we return.
Might have King Saul obeyed the Lord had he remembered death and judgment would come for him any moment?
Might Peter have not withdrawn from his Gentile friends for fear of men had he remembered the coming judgment (something he writes much about in his later letters)?
Might I be more consistently obedient if I too remembered my death and coming judgment moment-by-moment? I can only speak for myself here: Yes. I believe so.
Jesus said: “Do not fear those who can destroy only the body, but fear Him who can destroy body and soul.” Jesus stared at the face of the Roman empire fearing not him, but the God who gave Pilate the semblance of authority he thought he had. And, we are called to do the same. Do not fear man.
I get it, Saul. I’ve been there. But, by God’s grace, I will less and less fear man and fear Him from whom, and in whom I live, move, and have my being.