For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 HCSB
Memorialized in vinyl back in 1973, Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown was a number one hit for the late Jim Croce. Brown will forever be remembered as the baddest man on the south side of Chicago. At least until he met Doris’ husband, who made him look like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone.
On this side of heaven, there will be people who like to memorialize your past mistakes and replay them like a number one hit, usually at public venues for maximum stimulation. You are not defined by what you have done in your past, or by what your parents want or expect you to be, or even what your friends and family expect of you. God made you divinely unique and different, set apart to please Him. And, if you have become a born-again believer those mistakes in your past are not even in the cheap record rack!
With that said, if you are going to be all that God knows you can be, to please Him, you must allow Him to cross examine your heart and allow Him to point out things which do not please Him.
Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139: 23-24 NLT
While the Bible says, “We are for a little while lower than the angels,” at times, we can be anything but angelic. For those trying to walk closely with Jesus the expectations of others can be quite challenging. Sometimes people forget they are here on the southside of Heaven with very human people, making the same mistakes. So how do we balance our relationships with others and at the same time place God first in our lives?
The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” So, first and foremost we should please God. But part of pleasing God is loving people. So how do we go about loving people? What does “loving people” look like?
I think it would be safe to say that being judged and scrutinized by others would not be loving. It would be difficult to consider it loving to be talking about others in a negative way. Those are obvious ways we demonstrate a lack of love for others. Sometimes when we do not stand up or speak out in defense of our brother can show a lack of love. Silence can break a heart and change a life!
Pleasing God would include his golden rule. The golden rule is actually a verse in Matthew 7:12, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” In lieu of God’s mercy to us, we should extend grace and forgiveness to those who have hurt us. But at the same time, we should not allow ourselves to be bullied or manipulated out of fear of rejection!
Let’s be honest, relationships can be challenging. Whether a family member or a friend, their expectations can exceed our capabilities. Sometimes the closeness of the person can provide the greatest margin to conquer. We must be patient to listen to what they are saying to us and search it for morsels of truth. Is it relevant? Is it a rehash of some long ago wrong, still unhealed? Is there bitterness which is poisoning their well?
We are not responsible for what others may think of us, but we are responsible for how we handle accusations and confrontations. The Word of the Lord says, “So, encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT
Recently, a friend told me about an encounter while shopping. “As I was shopping, this woman, a stranger, came over and complimented the way I looked. It was so very nice.” Women can sometimes be hard on other women. Think of the blessing it would be if more women were encouraging each other.
True Christ-centered relationships are loving, kind, and seek to encourage and build one another up, in the ways of the Lord. Sometimes we choose to endure hard relationships to draw people to Christ. We endure things we typically would not endure to show them the love of Christ. These relationships should not become unhealthy, lacking boundaries or borders. Keep in mind, we should love others, but sometimes that could mean loving them from a distance. This doesn’t mean we cross them off our list, we can continue to pray for them.
Life is too short to try and live to please others. Don’t be afraid of the fall out and know that God is working out all things for the good of those who love Him, those who have been called according to His purposes.
Yes, loving people on the southside of heaven call be challenging, but it is worth it! Imagine, the friends you will see when you enter the Gates of His City!
At this writing we are just learning of the horrific school shooting in Texas. Pray for the families in Uvalde and for our Nation.