PLEASING MEN HAS COST US GOD
Paul, who was called an agitator (Ac.16: 20) wrote, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal.1: 10). Jesus, the Christ, put it thus, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets” (Lk.6: 26). Regarding the lawyers (legalists) and preachers of the day, Jesus concluded, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (Mt.23: 5).
I was twelve when I fell into a hole and was drowning. Someone stuck a stick in my hand and I grabbed it. I did not question who was handing me the stick. I was grateful to the person that knew how to save me. At the time of the incident, the person was considered a hostile; yet, in spite of it, he was a merciful person. If he had pleased his people, he would have let me die. I, too, have become a person with a stick reaching out to people that might be in trouble. I, too, disagreed with people and tried to justify my ways. In retrospect, I am glad that these people did not give up on me. It is difficult to trust lone voices, when a crowd is cheering us on. History and the Bible do not favor the crowds. They are not in the business of rescuing people. The Bible is very specific about God using lonely individuals to save us from drowning. Thus, before we close our hearts on voices, we do not agree with, could there be a reason why their messages ought to stir our thoughts? It is the narrow and hard way after all that leads us back to God and not the broad road (Mt.7: 13-14).
I, too, belonged to the herd and the ministry of the Gospel was farthest from my mind. And when I became a pastor, I had joined another herd of clergy that followed each other. We were in the business of pleasing each other and the people we served. We were bent on making the crowd feel good and accepted in the eyes of God, as if we were authorized to do so. We were handing out certificates of grace without any strings attached. Every time, we baptized a person and handed them a certificate, they took it as a sign that they had eternal security and found it no longer necessary to take part in the Church of Christ. We have created a herd that travels on grace stranded on a track without an engine. Salvation, to this herd, is a onetime deal and not a daily task of applying grace with good deeds toward the stranded along the way. I, too, was stranded once and very few individuals reached out towards me. It was when I was sick and all alone that I too needed a physician (Mk.2: 17). It mattered little whether the helper was friendly or hostile. In this world we must get along!
It is unfortunate that men regard those that seek to please God rather than men as indifferent and out of touch with reality. It is tragic that far too many, in this world, serve gods that hate men that serve men. This was not what Jesus stood for, neither should His servants. For Him to please God, the Father, meant to love and die for the world (Jn.3: 16; 15: 13). The chores Jesus had to perform were not pleasant but necessary. It was extremely difficult to tell His fellowmen that unless they mended their lives, they would die in their sins (Jn.8: 21). His followers have the same task and they shall receive the same reception (Jn.15: 22). In spite of the hostility they face, they must discharge their duty by warning their fellowmen where their sin will take them (Ezek.3: 16-21; I Pe.2: 25). And what are we to teach and do? Jesus’ orders were, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (Jn.20: 20; Mt.6: 14).
Ultimately, we have no say over what anyone decides to do. We are only obligated to pass on the message of Christ that we all must repent and believe that we can be reconciled to God and to each other (Mk.1: 14; Ro.1: 14). There is no other option. Other wise, we shall devour each other and the meek will inherit what is left. Let us think about this, “Whoever turns a sinner away from his error will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (Ja.5: 20). We can help each other to stop from hurting each other. Jesus did not come to conquer the world; but, to save it from destroying itself. His mission has never been more relevant than it is now. Now, more than ever, men are bent on conquering the world by subduing and annihilating those that stand in their way. It is horrifying when they believe that they obey orders from heaven.
At the end of World War II, I opened a door and an America soldier stuck a gun in my face. I froze and was relieved when he did not pull the trigger. He, too, felt pleased that he did not have to shoot me. We placed a white sheet in our window and in no time there was one in every house. Before this American unit left, we had some pleasant encounters. Because of that peaceful reception, our town was never bombed. It all began when my father hung out a white flag. That to me was pleasing to God. The sword has yet to solve a single thing in the world. It does not please God!