I feel intimidated by people who have opinions different from mine in terms of my belief and moral stand … How would you best advise me to navigate these situations?
We should start by noting that what you have described is not unusual. There is no problem in ruing and desiring to avoid confrontations. Advising Timothy, Paul told him to “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 Tim. 2:6). Some ‘disputes’ are ‘foolish’ and ‘ignorant’. The hallmarks of such conversations are that they are argumentative and unnecessarily heated. You should avoid them.
Yet, there are instances when a response is needed. The ‘trick’ is to discern the atmosphere. Does the person want to have a decent conversation or argue? In the case of the former, scripture says you should be ‘gentle, able to teach and patient’. (2 Tim. 2:24).
We must highlight the phrase “able to teach”. There are two components of this phrase. One can be gleaned from 1 Peter 3: 15 and the other from 2 Tim 2:15.
“But sanctify the Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15)
“study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. (2 Tim. 2:15)
You must sanctify the Lord in your heart. To sanctify means to ‘set apart’! Contextually, this means you must consciously raise God above every other thing in this life: the commendation, respect or recognition of men, comfort, the fear of retribution, disentitlement or pain! Conclude in your heart that for the sake of the Lord, there is a price to pay. Be ready to be hated, to be spited, and to be ostracized (John 15: 18 – 25). The disciples came to this point. They were arrested, punished, and disgraced. Yet, when they told them not to speak about Christ any more, they responded: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge”. (Acts 4:19). Ultimately, what matters is “what is right in the sight of God”. You must consciously come to this conclusion in your heart. This is key to sanctifying God in your heart. It is key to conviction, And conviction is vital to being “able to teach”!
Second, you must commit yourself to study. Study the word, rely on the Holy Ghost for insight. Read books, listen to messages. Sincerely ask questions and with humility, seek answers; before oppositions arise. As much as you are permitted by the Lord, be conversant with happenings and contemporary developments. Scripture says, “in order that satan does not outwit us; for we are not unaware of his schemes”. A major reason for timidity is lack of knowledge. Scripture says you will not be ashamed, if you have studied and, by the Holy Ghost, you rightly divide the word of truth. Scripture again says, “…the people who know their God, shall be strong…” (Daniel 11: 32).
In all, you must not forget that “God has not given you the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind”! (2 Tim 1: 7). Each time the feeling of fear arises, recall this scripture!
Feel free to post follow-up questions below.