Galatians 1:10 NIV
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
My dad used to tell me “You can’t please everyone all the time.” Paul knew that well.
Once upon a time when I first entered ministry, a pastor mentor of mine told me “If everyone is happy with you all the time, you probably aren’t doing it right.” Paul also knew that all too well.
Over my years of ministry and working in business, the very things that some email me to commend me for are often the same things others email or call me about to complain.
Two people experiencing the same experience with me often share two vastly different opinions.
Perhaps you have experienced this in your own lives as well either in your personal life or at work.
The world is full of critics. The world is full of people chomping at the bit to tell you all the things you did wrong, things you could do better, things you could “improve” upon. Usually those same people are the most resistant to tell you anything positive. You have probably heard it before: you need to fix this, you need to start doing this, you need to stop doing this…
To be clear, feedback is important. I am thankful we live in a world where we can share our opinions with each other and provide our experience and wisdom. It is one way we grow and develop but it is also not always the only way. In a world of opinions, facts, truths, and ideas we often have to sort through feedback and reflect/pray on it all to discern what is useful and what is harmful – otherwise, if you listened to every piece of feedback and implemented it, you would be doing a “change” dance all the time.
The author of our Scripture is reminding us that while the opinions of others can be fickle and fleeting – and often changing depending on moods and even personalities to please everyone – God is always steadfast in His love, grace, and mercy.
People pleasing is a difficult trap for us all to fall into. It is lonely and isolating when people are upset with you for challenging and questioning them. Harmony and peace are comfortable places to reside but conflict is sometimes not only healthy but vitally important. Pastors are not immune to feeling the pressure to people please either.
We serve God not people and that is hard when it is people that give us grief and cause us pain and hurt. Words can be dangerous – they can sow love or they can reap sorrow. We are called to be disciple makers, not disciple pleasers.
It won’t always be easy and you may ruffle some feathers along the way. Culture and God often don’t align. Sometimes, and this should be the exception and not the rule I hope, but sometimes even Church and God don’t always align. Look back at history to see examples of this.
Remember the words of Galatian this week as you proclaim the Gospel at home, at work, and in the community you live – “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Loving people and pleasing people are two different things – one is kingdom building and one can quickly be kingdom destroying. Do all things through love and you will be doing God’s will.
Pray: Gracious Lord, we pray that you continue to sustain us and encourage us as we proclaim your message of love, hope, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and patience. May you continue to move in our spirit kindness towards each other but also hear your voice in our hearts leading us and guiding us.
Read: Psalm 67
Act: Each day remind someone in your life of how awesome they are. Won’t always be easy when you want to point out their deficiencies or opportunities to improve but focus on one thing each day they are doing well.
Yourself: As the weather changes take time to enjoy the cooler mornings and the cooler evenings with either a walk, bike ride, or sit outside. We are in this “in between time” between the end of summer and the beginning of Fall and it doesn’t last too long. The days are warm but the morning and evenings are beautifully cool right now.
May it be so,
Rev. Lou Ward
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