Sunday, 28 November 2010
It seems to me that people-pleasing has been a problem for Christians for centuries. Surely, itt has plagued humankind since the beginning. In extreme cases, it can lead to either legalism or apostasy. Perhaps it comes from guilt, insecurity, a need for approval.
Whatever the cause, it's comforting to know that I am not the only one that struggles with this sin. It seems that Timothy also had difficulty with it. Timothy was young, and seemingly prone to timidity.
In Paul's letters to Timothy, he addressed these aspects lovingly, but firmly. He wrote to Timothy not only to instruct, but also to encourage and inspire boldness.
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Tim. 4:12)
People are bound to look down on me for various reasons. I think the essence of Paul's command was more like: don't let them make you believe you are incapable or inferior. Don't let their judgments affect your faith and courage.
"But you, man of God, flee from all of this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Tim. 6:11-12)
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God..." (2 Tim. 1:7-8)
Paul suffered for the gospel because people were NOT pleased with his proclamations about and commitment to Christ Jesus. Paul was not concerned with pleasing men; he was concerned with pleasing God, his Almighty Father. In his letter to the Galatian Church, he wrote: "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1: 10)
I also believe that the need to people-please is an effort for self-preservation. If others are pleased with me, then I am safe. I won't lose my job, or reputation. I can preserve my comforts as long as my bosses, co-workers, friends, and family members are happy with me and how I perform.
I am instantly reminded of a teaching from my Lord, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."(Mark 8:35) That's what Jesus has to say about my instinct for self-preservation.
The truth is that Christianity is all about sacrifice. Christ sacrificed immeasurably more than I will ever need to. He is calling me and all of His followers to not be ashamed, to consider the comforts of this life as rubbish, and to be ready to lose our life for Him. The fear of disapproval will cease when my trust and hope is in Christ. I can be ready and willing to lose anything when I fight the good fight of faith and take hold of the eternal life to which I was called.
Do you ever struggle with people-pleasing? How do you react to Christ's command to lose your life for Him and the gospel?