"God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind"(The Message)
I think this is one of the hardest things for any of us to take onboard. Like all humans, we care about what others think of us. We are critical about ourselves. We want to be liked. But, as Christians, we are told not to worry about these things. It is God's opinion that really matters (and he knows what we have done and/or thought). This is a difficult lesson to learn (and one which I suspect most people never will).
I admit I've always had a soft-spot for hard-core protesters. You know, those who are not afraid to occupy trees, stand infront of bulldozers, or go on hunger-strikes. Those are people with strong convictions- they know what they believe in and are not afraid to stand up for those principles, no matter what the consequences. The question I often ask myself is am I, as a Christian, as dedicated to my principles? Would I be willing to do whatever it took to make sure they were heard?
In our modern world it's considered un-PC to talk about our religion to others. We hear stories on the news of hospital staff who were sacked for sharing their faith, counsellors who cannot console with stories of God's love, teachers who not allowed to admit to being Christians. Few stand up to these rules, whether it be for fear of loosing their jobs, the respect of colleagues, or simply because it seems dangerous to challenge the status-quo.
I suppose that some might justify this by saying that, once removed from their jobs, they wouldn't be able to demonstrate their faith any more to their non-Christian colleagues. Yes, this may be true. I'm not advocating shouting your beliefs from the rooftops, shoving it down other people's throughts. Demanding a change of beliefs really works, nor does telling othr people that they're wrong. But, when someone asks about your faith, surely that's another matter altogether!
I recently heard a story about a man who was going into hospital. Upon arriving, before he could even settle into his bed, he was asked by another patient if he ever thought about dying. Recognising a God-given moment, the man who had just arrived told him about heaven. A few days later, another person thanked him for his words, saying that they had been a great help in a time of need. Now shift the focus slightly. Imagine it had been a nurse or a doctor that the patient had asked about dying. Would the staff member have felt able to tell him about heaven, or would they have been too worried about what they're bosses would make of that talk?
I know that I often take too much notice of what others think of me. I've been in the position of needing others to like me, and I know that this has often been a distraction to my faith. But I hope that, with God's help, I can overcome those feelings so that I can speak my faith whenever and wherever it is needed. I pray that he will do the same for you too.