“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
(Galatians 1:10 ESV)
In modern times, the church has become a group of people pleasers. Our goal is to keep everyone happy all of the time. And, for this reason, we give in to every whim, to every emotion and response, of man.
We do so for multiple reasons. We do so because we dislike criticism. We’re afraid that, if we say or do the wrong thing, people will think badly of us. We’re afraid that, if we say or do the wrong thing, people will speak badly of us. We fear how it might affect our reputation or our standing in the community.
We do so because we fear persecution. We’re afraid that, if others disapprove of something we say or do, we’ll suffer as a result. Perhaps we’ll lose our job. Perhaps we’ll be shunned by the community. Or perhaps we’ll face physical attacks or threats.
We do so as a means of self-preservation. We’re afraid that, if we say or do something that others find offensive, they’ll stop coming to our church. We’re afraid that they might stop giving to our church. And we’re afraid that this might mean the end of our congregation.
When it comes to matters of personal preference, when there is no right and wrong of the matter, we can and should value the opinions of those around us. We can respect others and use deference when it comes to these matters. When it comes to things like music preference, worship style, carpet color, or church décor, the opinions of others can and should matter.
However, when it comes to the gospel, when it comes to matters of truth, we are not to be people pleasers. Our primary concern, as we engage in ministry, is not to be the negative response we may face. We see this as we look at the words of Paul, above.
As we’ve seen, Paul was bringing the gospel to the people of Galatia. And there were some who did not like it. There were some who were trying to impart a different teaching, a different gospel, within the church.
However, in the face of this, he recognized who it was that he should be trying to please. He recognized that, by pleasing the world, he’d be displeasing God. And he recognized that, by pleasing God, he would displease the world.
The same is true for us today. So, the question we have to face is very simple: Which matters more, the will of man or that of God? And the answer to this question is obvious. No matter the response of the world, we should seek to please the Lord first and foremost.
Paul says that, if he were trying to please man, he would not be a servant of Christ. He would not be a servant of Christ because the desires of God and those of the world are at odds with one another. If his primary focus was the opinion of others, he would then be a servant of man rather than a servant of God.
The same remains true for us. We must seek to please God, first and foremost. We must seek to serve God, first and foremost. When it comes to the gospel, when it comes to matters of truth, the opinion of man must not enter into the equation.
Once again, this doesn’t give us permission to be a jerk. It doesn’t give us permission to be intentionally abrasive to those around us. We’re to always act in a spirit of love. However, we must recognize who is to be the focus of our devotion.