The Relief and Challenge
Some aspects of our personality are ingrained. As a southern, Christian woman, people-pleasing is second nature to me. It is part of the culture I know well. But I have found an interesting realization as I have studied Jesus. One thing He was NOT was a people-pleaser. He loved people too much for that.
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law,“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Luke 14:1-4 NIV
People-pleasing may initially appear as loving but it isn’t. Jesus knew that. It is actually trying to placate people rather than love them well. Seeking to appease others in order to keep them from getting upset is actually the opposite of Jesus. A recent article showed me just how much Jesus lived contrary to this mindset. As I read it, I saw how emotionally unhealthy people-pleasing can be as each of the 10 signs of people-pleasing were contradictory to Christlikeness.
This is both a relief and a challenge.
I am relieved that I don’t have to strive to please others but it is also a challenge to break this habit. Christ provides the wellness we crave along with the example we need in order to love others well.
Jesus’ Love and Courage
It isn’t easy knowing HOW to love others. Sometimes it is even counter-intuitive. What feels like “love” can be enabling while what feels “unloving” is actually the much-needed truth. Jesus understood the balance of grace and truth. He knew just when to offer each. His divine love (agapao) was always given in what was in the best interest of someone, not necessarily what they wanted.
To love as Jesus requires selflessness and courage. He was willing to pay the price for what was most needed by another person. To do this required His taking direction from His Father and not the crowd around Him.
I can just feel the pressure from those watching Jesus closely, hoping that they could catch Him in some fault. Knowing that with each good deed He performed He was actually inciting their ire had to be intimidating. Surely He was tempted to just acquiesce to the crowd, to please them at the expense of the pitiful man in front of Him.
Yet it is interesting that though He was at a prominent leader’s home with the antagonistic crowd around Him, God placed in front of Him an opportunity. He could please the crowd looking for His demise or He could please His Father by caring for the suffering man.
Each side was in conflict with the other. They both were out for different goals.
The Pharisees wanted power and prestige while God wanted healing and holiness. No wonder the opposition to Jesus was so fierce. How diametrically opposed can you be?
Jesus understood the downfall of seeking to please man at the expense of God’s purpose.
- It confuses the mission.
- It leads to bondage.
- It wastes time.
What we can learn from this is that although there will definitely be times when we cannot please some people, the way to respond is to always seek to please the One person who truly matters – God.
He simplifies the choice in front of us just like He did for Jesus that day.
Learning How to Respond Wisely
When we are faced with a choice of who to please or how to please, Jesus offers us insight on how to process this opportunity.
4 Ways to Please God Over Man
- Do what is right. When we are pulled in conflicting directions, God’s truth will always shine brighter as the preferred path. As Jesus was pressured to ignore the suffering man because it was the Sabbath, God’s heart to care for others became the priority. To do good unto others trumped the over-the-top traditions the Pharisees had added to the Sabbath law requirements.
- Do what you can. Jesus sought to heal the ailing man AND instruct the religious leaders in the error of their ways. Christ accepted that He couldn’t satisfy everyone so He did what He could, what was most reflective of God’s heart.
- Remember what is important and what isn’t. God’s thoughts and ways are what is to direct our choices in life. We will never go wrong if we seek to imitate the Father and Son. Satisfying manipulative people who do not reflect God’s principles will not bring glory to God in the least.
- Leave it to God and move on. After we act as we understand God would have us, then we can leave the repercussions to Him. Jesus did what He could then left the complaining crowd for God to handle. When we don’t yield to the pressures from others and their manipulation, we can leave their dissatisfaction to God.
The Satisfaction in the Midst of Condemnation
Jesus may not have satisfied the accusing crowd but He sure changed the life of that one man that day. I love how Scripture says that He took hold of the ailing man. He could have healed him with just a Word but He didn’t. He personally and intimately took hold of him for a purpose and I think He does the same for us.
….. I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12
Jesus Christ took hold of us to live our lives for the glory of One. This makes life simple yet satisfying all at the same time.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
We must tune our ear to the voice of the One and Only. He is the Light guiding us to love others well and it is a whole lot more satisfying than trying to people-please our way into the approval of man.
READ MORE FROM Gretchen ON HER BLOG AT gretchenfleming.com.
CHECK OUT OTHERS IN THE LOVE IN THE REAL WORLD SERIES.
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