by Alexander Maclaren
The reasons for the unfaithfulness of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are put by John in a very blunt fashion: "for fear of the Jews." That is not what we say to ourselves; some of us say, "Oh! I have got beyond outward organizations. I find it enough to be united to Christ. The Christian communities are very imperfect: there is not any of them that I quite see eye to eye with; so I stand apart, contemplating all, and happy in my unsectarianism." Yes! I quite admit the faults, and suppose that as long as men think at all, they will not find any church which is entirely to their mind; and I rejoice to think that some day we shall all outgrow visible organizations - when we get there where the seer "saw no temple therein." Admitting all that, I also know that isolation is always weakness, and that if a man stand apart from the wholesome friction of his brethren, he will get to be a great diseased mass of oddities, of very little use either to himself or to men or to God. It is not a good thing on the whole that people should fight for their own hands; and the wisest thing any of us can do is, preserving our freedom of opinion, to link ourselves with some body of Christian people, and to find in them our shelter and our home. But these two were moved by "fear." They dreaded ridicule, the loss of position, the expulsion from Sanhedrin and synagogue, social ostracism, and all the armory of offensive weapons which would have been used against them by their colleagues.
So with us, the fear of loss of position comes into play. I have heard of people saying, "Oh! we cannot attach ourselves to such and such a community; there is no society for the children." Then, many of us are very much afraid of being laughed at. Ridicule, I think, to sensitive people, in a generation like ours, is pretty nearly as bad as the old rack and the physical torments of martyrdom. We have all got so nervous and high-strung nowadays, and depend so much upon other people's good opinion, that it is a dreadful thing to be ridiculed. Timid people do not come to the front and say what they believe and take up unpopular causes, because they cannot bear to be pointed at and pelted with the abundant epithets of disparagement which are always flung at earnest people who will not worship at the appointed shrines, and have sturdy convictions of their own.
Ridicule breaks no bones. It has no power, if you make up your mind that it shall not have. Face it, and it will only be unpleasant for a moment at first. When a child goes into the water to bathe, he is uncomfortable till his head has been fairly under water, and then, after that, he is all right. So it is with the ridicule which out-and-out Christian faithfulness may bring on us. It only hurts at the beginning, and people very soon get tired. Face your fears, and they wall pass away. It is not perhaps a good advice to give unconditionally, but it is a very good one in regard of all moral questions. Always do what you are afraid to do. In nine cases out of ten it will be the right thing to do. If people would only discount "the fear of men which bringeth a snare" by making up their minds to it, there would be fewer dumb dogs and secret disciples haunting and weakening the Church of Christ.
Bible verses: 1 Corinthians 4:2
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