By Drew Zuverink
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were trying to please people; I would not be a servant of Christ."
Human beings have an important need deep within them to be liked, loved and accepted. This is why middle school and high school can be a nightmare for some people who are trying to find a group to fit in with. For the students who are able to find a group where they are liked and accepted, school can be a great place and a lot of fun but for the students who struggle to fit in and who haven't found a group of close friends, school can be a source of deep anxiety and pain.
Imagine the repeating nightmare of lunch time if you are a student with not many friends. You grab your food and then you scan the cafeteria for an empty seat. It can be embarrassing and lonely to sit alone but it's equally as scary to ask a group if you could sit with them.
All of this points towards a deep need that we all have to be loved and accepted. In fact, the need to be loved is as fundamental to being a human being as the need for food, water and sleep is. A child who does not receive any love will grow up with many developmental issues. Some of those children grow up to do horrible things to other people, largely because their need to be loved and accepted was not met.
If a person's deep need to be accepted is not met they will also do certain things and act in certain ways in the hopes of pleasing other people, which will hopefully cause them to accept that person into their group. Many teenagers do harmful things, not because they are terrible people, and not because they are stupid, but because they are trying to win the approval of their fellow peers. All of this is evidence that humans need to be liked, they need to be loved by at least a few people, and they need to be accepted - not conditionally, but basically unconditionally.
There is a mind blowing truth found in the Christian faith that God loves you. You might think to yourself that once other people find out what you are really like, once they get to know you for real, they won't like you for who you are. That's not true with God. He knows everything about you - he knows how deeply sinful and downright evil you can be sometimes, and he even knows the thoughts that you think. I don't know about you, but if even my closest friends and family members knew all of my thoughts, I'm not sure they would still like me very much. But God still does. He knows all of our thoughts and all of our actions and he still wants to have a loving relationship with us. He freely offers us a gift of freedom through his son Jesus Christ. His gift is freedom from sin, freedom from the fear of hell, freedom as being part of his adoptive family, and even freedom from the anxiety of not being loved or wanted. God offers us a new identity of being a child of God, whom he loves and accepts as his own.
For some of us, this is our reality, our identity and our joy. When this becomes a reality for someone - they have their deepest need met. Children of God are overwhelmed with love for him because he loved them first. And because of their love for God, Christians have a natural desire to show their love for God to let him know how grateful they are for what he has given them. This means that they no longer want to do anything that would hurt or anger God. His children no longer want to sin, and when they do sin they feel terrible afterwards. After God has lavished his love on a person, that person goes from a mentality of, "How can I please others so that they'll like me" to, "How can I put a smile on God's face?"
Let me give you a hypothetical question to illustrate this point. Think of somebody that you love very much. This person has probably been there for you in hard times, laughed with you, protected you, blessed you in many ways and it's also probably someone who really knows you - even your faults - and they still love you. Got someone in mind? Ok, good.
Now think of someone that you know but you are less close with them - maybe an acquaintance of some kind.
The decision you have to make is this; you have to do something that is going to make one of these people very very happy, so happy that their joy is evident all over their face, but it's going to make the other person very upset. Who would you choose to make happy?
My guess is that you chose to please the person that you are closer to, the one who knows and loves and accepts you. Why? Because you love them and every part of you enjoys bringing them joy and not pain. I would much rather do something that hurts a stranger than my wife because I love my wife much more than I love strangers.
It's supposed to be the same way in our relationship with God. We are faced with countless decisions each day and a lot of those decisions will either hurt God and please someone else - or vice versa. Maybe we choose not to speak up because we are afraid of what other people will think of us, even when we know something is wrong. Maybe we decide to do something because of peer pressure, even though we know it's a sin. Maybe we like to talk about our Christian faith - so long as we are surrounded by other Christian's who think the same things as we do.
The point is that it's impossible to be a Christian in this world and please all people at the same time - but that's ok! When we upset people by sticking up for our faith and our beliefs, we are pleasing God by choosing his happiness over theirs. It shows him that we love him and that brings him joy. God is more important to us than anyone else and so if I have to upset somebody I'd rather it be anybody other than the God who loves me so well.
Will it be difficult to upset a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend or even a family member because of your loyalty to Christ? Of course it will. You love them also, but it will be far more painful to live a life that saddens the God who loves you so much.
Remember often how your need to be accepted and loved, in spite of all of your negative qualities, has been met by God's adopting you into his family through the blood of Jesus Christ. Remember so that you do not need to try to fill that need with other people's acceptance - and let the motivation to please God drive your actions so that you can experience joy no matter who is offended by it.