Most of us want to be liked, don’t we? I know I do. Some of us have a greater desire (need?) to be liked than others do. To be honest, I admire people who don’t seem to care that much whether people like them or not. I don’t like them, but I admire them.
I’ve thought about this on and off through the years. What got me thinking about it again lately was a message I prepared and preached in September and then an article I read entitled “The Haunted Hayride of Human Approval.” The article wasn’t that good, but the title was.
The message was from I Corinthians 4, but working on it reminded me of another of Paul’s letters and something he wrote that had a great impact on me 20 or more years ago in my devotional reading. I remember underlining I Thessalonians 2:4b, “We are not trying to please people but God.” I’ve tried to keep that in mind and emulate the Apostle Paul ever since.
Last month while working on that message from I Corinthians 4:1-5 on judging, I was struck by something he said I had never noted before. In verse 3 he declares “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court.” In the message I acknowledged, “I don’t know about you, but I have to tell you that too often I do care how I am judged by others. I wish I was more like Paul.” In this post, as a professor, I also admit I care too much about what my students think of me at Hope International University.
I think a lot of people battle this desire to please others and be liked, but it can be especially an issue for pastors and preachers. The same week I was working on the I Corinthians 4 message I read an article for pastors entitled Four Things You Wish People Knew about You. One of those things was “Pastors tend to want to please people, especially those in their church.”
In his book A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality author Glen Scorgie suggests, “It is tempting to play to our audiences. We feed off the approval of others.” He is writing to all Christians, but you can see how this might be an even greater challenge to preachers.
John’s Gospel offers an assessment of believers I hope will never be said about any of us. Speaking about many even among the leaders who believed in Jesus, John 12:42 and 43 reports “they would not openly acknowledge their faith . . . for they love human praise more than praise from God.”
Before I point to a final example for us to follow, let’s remind ourselves of what Paul wrote. Writing to the Corinthians he continued in 4:4, “It is the Lord who judges me.” That is something to keep in mind, isn’t it? And remember what he said to the Thessalonians, “We are not trying to please people but God.”
As I keep all this in mind my goal and desire is to someday hear something along the lines of what Jesus heard following His baptism: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” How about you?
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