Perfect Love Casts Out Fear: How the Gospel Frees Our Children from the Fear of Man

It’s one thing for a parent to struggle with people pleasing; it’s another thing entirely to watch the fear of man control and consume our children. 

Maybe you have a son who refuses to try out for a sports team because he will be embarrassed if he misses the cut. Or maybe you have a daughter who does not defend a friend from gossip because she fears being ostracized from their friend group. In these moments, we want to help our kids overcome these fears that cripple them. But how can we? What does the Bible offer as a solution to people-pleasing?

The desire to please other people is not inherently evil. In Romans 15:2-7, Paul commands us to seek to please others for their good, to serve them, build them up, and welcome them by following the example of Jesus to promote harmony and unity in the church. God also commands us in Scripture to obey and honor our parents and those who are in authority over us (Eph. 6:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). 

So, the desire to please others is a good desire when it is motivated by the ultimate desire to please God, but it can become sinful when pleasing people usurps pleasing God.

The Snare of People-Pleasing

Our children’s struggle to please others is rooted in who they trust, who they fear, and who they love. Insecure children seek to please their parents, hoping to earn love and approval. Teenagers may conform to certain social norms, such as their choice of clothes or activities, to fit in with their peers at school and avoid ridicule. A deep-seated need for acceptance drives these kids. If they do not receive love and acceptance, they become depressed, anxious, and afraid. These kids ride the roller coaster of seeking to please other people around them, people whose standards and preferences change like the wind. 

When our kids fear other people, those people control our kids. As Proverbs 29:25 says, “the fear of man proves to be a snare.” When they are constantly seeking the approval of friends, teachers, and coaches, our teenagers are trapped. We, too, can be guilty of this as parents when we only love and care for our kids when they are “good” and “respectful.” 

Frequently, our kids do not take important risks because they fear other people’s opinions. A child may refuse to share the gospel with her teammate because she doesn’t want to be called a “Jesus Freak.” Essentially, fear of man leads our kids to trust in man instead of God, preventing them from living the way God designed them and stifling them from attempting great things for his glory. 

The Israelites feared man instead of God when they spied out the promised land in Numbers 12-13. God had promised to give them the land in his covenant with their forefather Abraham. He revealed himself to them, delivered them from Egypt, and made the Israelites his people. Yet instead of remembering the greatness of their gracious, merciful, and covenant-keeping God, Israel’s eyes became fixated on the giants living in the land. They forgot Yahweh’s powerful hand and focused on their own inadequacies, making man big and God small. They rejected God’s promises, resulting in pain and hardship through forty years of wandering through the wilderness. 

God’s Love Expels Our Fear 

Fear of man is driven by a desire to be loved, valued, and accepted. By reminding our kids of the love God has given us freely through Christ, they can overcome people pleasing by embracing God’s great love for them. 

God’s love is completely different from the love that people can give. Human love is temporary, but God’s love is eternal (Ps. 100:5). Human love changes, but God’s love remains the same (Ex. 34:6). Human love is based on our appearance or performance, but God’s love is based on his perfect and unchanging character (Deut. 7:6-11). The truth that we have done nothing to earn God’s love and favor is the pinnacle of the greatness of God’s love for us. 

Ephesians 1:4 says that before God formed the world, he chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless. This means that for all those in Christ, from the beginning of time, God has set his love and affection on us! Despite our transgressions and constant failures, God loves us simply because he freely chose to love us. God demonstrated his own love for us by sending Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:6-8). Even though God foresaw all of our sins, he chose to set his affection on us from the beginning of time and proved his love for us by giving up his one and only Son so that we could be adopted into his family as his sons and daughters. This is the gospel.

Therefore, if the God of the universe, who spoke the world into motion and upheld the atmosphere with his Word, speaks to us and calls us his beloved children (Col. 3:12; 1 John 3:1-3), why should we even begin to care what other people think or say about us? By reminding our kids of the gospel, we can help them see that through faith in Christ, they are loved and accepted by God. His love for them will not change. So they no longer need to seek approval from others because, in Christ, they are already approved and accepted by God. There will never be a moment when God will not be pleased with them because God’s acceptance of them is not based on their imperfect attempts but on Jesus’s perfect accomplishments as their substitute and great high priest.

God’s love in Christ gives our kids the three things they yearn for from others: identity, belonging, and purpose. In Christ, our kids find identity in being declared God’s holy and beloved children. In Christ, our kids find belonging in being accepted by God and adopted into his family, the Church. In Christ, our kids find purpose in seeking to live for God and his glory in all that they do (1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 6:5-8). 

Parents, know that God’s love solves our kids’ struggles with pleasing people. His perfect love will cast out all fear from their hearts because any thought of punishment or shame has been fully dealt with through the work of his Son on the cross. When your kids struggles with the fear of man, remind them of the glorious gospel. Remind them that God has fully accepted them in Christ despite their shortcomings—and don’t forget to remind yourself as well.

For more resources for discipling children, check out our Rooted Reservoir Family Discipleship Curriculum.

Andrew Slay

Andrew serves as the Pastor of Students and Families at Westwood Baptist Church in Cleveland, TN. He is a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, with a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Apologetics and Culture from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Andrew earned his bachelor’s degree in RTVF and a master’s degree in Exercise Science from Auburn University. Andrew is passionate about discipleship, biblical fellowship, evangelism, and world missions. He seeks to spur the body of Christ on to walk in obedience to Jesus by fulfilling Great Commission. He and his wife, Ashley, have two daughters, Graysen Elyse and Emersyn Leigh.

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