By Basilea Schlink
"If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ" (Gal. 1: 10). With this statement, the Apostle Paul has touched upon a cancerous growth in life, especially among Christians. Because our human hearts are infected with sin, we seek the favour of our fellow men and not the favour of God. That is why it hurts us so much to lose the favour, love and recognition of men, especially of those whose favour is important to us. So we make every effort to please others. But then we are in danger of losing God's favour and Jesus will no longer look upon us as His servants and disciples.
This is an "either/or" situation. And it is especially important during this time of apostasy. If we are now seeking to please men, how quickly we could go over to the side of those who deny Jesus! In past years we have seen shocking examples of this among us Christians, and we have already seen something of the judgment such people reaped, who conformed because they were afraid.
In the face of all this the Lord is asking us, "What is the motive behind your talking, your behaviour?" Perhaps we are friendly towards strangers, but within our own family we are annoyed and grumpy. Our ulterior motive, although we may not be aware of it, is that we want the good opinion of strangers, their respect, their love and recognition, while we take this for granted in our own family. But if we were interested in God's favour and pleasure, we would be especially friendly at home, for God's sake. Another danger is that "when in Rome, we do as the Romans do". At work and elsewhere we conform to the people around us and do whatever they do, whether it involves gossiping with them, telling dirty jokes, accepting their opinions, conforming to their way of dress. All this because, as we say, we do not want to be "different".
Perhaps we even have other pretences: we do not want to offend people. If so we will not be able to tell them anything about our faith. But in reality we simply do not want to lose their favour. No matter what it costs, we want to avoid having any opponents. So we cater to men and do things we cannot justify. If we wanted to give a testimony of Jesus under these conditions, no one would believe us.
We are not at peace, but are tormented by our fear of others. We are afraid of what they may think of us. But how foolish this is! We are afraid of men and not afraid of God, who is really to be feared. Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10: 28). Yes, we should be afraid of losing God's favour, by trying to gain the favour of man. For if God is no longer for us, we are lost, that is, God no longer uses His power for us and contends on our behalf. Yes, we are lost, if God's judgment is upon us. If we wish to please men, we cannot be His servants, neither here nor in eternity. He has power to deliver us up to Satan's kingdom. What good will recognition and favour from men do us, if we are separated from the Source of life, God Himself, and one day have to hear Him say, "You do not belong to Me!"?
No matter what it costs, our goal must be that we stand on God's side and that we have His good pleasure, Therefore, we must make a decision. We must denounce seeking to please people, so that we may obtain God's pleasure. Our fate for eternity depends upon this. Let us picture the baptism of Jesus and His transfiguration and listen to the Father's tender words of love, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Then we will sense that it is worth everything to receive God's commendation and will seek to please Him alone. Then we will partake fully of the love of God, which is actually our deepest longing. Moreover people cannot give us this much love and we will never be fully satisfied by them alone.
If we please God, He will love us and honour us, and one day this will be manifested to all mankind. This is quite certain, whereas we can never be sure of getting love from people when we seek to please them. Tomorrow it may bring about our downfall. Human love is like dew, like a cloud that passes away. Perhaps the situation will change and tomorrow they will no longer be interested in taking care of us and being ready to help us. There is only one Person we can rely on; we can count on His love and all the gifts He has to give us. That is our LORD and GOD. What should we do, if God no longer counts us among His servants, if He is not for us? We cannot allow that to happen-in time or in eternity.
Jesus is exhorting us; "Choose Me; choose My way". In everything that we do and say we ought to please God. Let us make this commitment. It is a commitment to the cross, for it is painful when people withdraw their favour and we are no longer loved and respected by them. They may even reject us and be hostile to us. But then we will receive love from God and from those who are close to Him. That is always the case. The closer we are to the Lord and the more we seek to please Him, the more at one we are with those who are close to Him. Isn't that worth suffering for?