Meditations for Troubled Times
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
Last week’s devotional was on Paul’s fiery opening of his letter to the Galatians. He warns them that they are leaving the Gospel of Christ, even though it doesn’t seem so to them. Paul then says (twice!) that anyone preaching a distorted gospel deserves to go to hell! How can he speak so strongly? As was explained last week, the gospel is wrong! This is very serious! But then Paul continues on in verse 10 to explain why he is compelled to write this letter.
We have all been confronted by someone about something we are sensitive about. What is our response? How do we defend our pride? “That’s none of their business!” “They are just nosy!” We jump to attack the person because we feel the bite of truth in what they say to us. We learn this from a young age. The worst insults on the playground are “goody two-shoe” and “tattletale.” This mentality betrays that we would prefer to continue in our wrong rather than suffer momentary shame and be corrected.
This is a prolific problem with widespread impact. I worked with Hispanic refugees out of college, and the worst kind of person was a “snitch.” It wasn’t the person committing the violence or robbery, it was the person who spoke against it. That is Satanic support of injustice, and the resulting culture in the group home was remarkably similar to the streets from which these boys had fled! And as much as we can see that as wrong around us, we live in a world that has an unspoken list of things you are allowed to speak against in public. Outside of that list, you face trouble!
Not only does that mark the world, but we all also have that list ourselves. I know I’m prideful, I don’t pray enough, and am negligent of getting back to people, but outside my list of known and safe sins, I don’t want to hear it from you! Does that sound familiar?
It is that same aggressively insular posture which instigates Paul to defend his message this second time towards the Galatians. He explains that he is compelled to write this because he is a slave of Christ. He knows this will upset them, and they may hate him for what he writes. But he must please God and not man.
Paul gives us a very plain principle. Either we are pleasing man or pleasing God. Either we are seeking commendation from men or from God. Those are our two options. As Jesus says, you cannot have two masters.
Who are you trying to please? Pleasing God does not always mean angering people, but if you are like me, it is too easy to find a middle road, pleasing both. God is telling us we must have our eyes fixed on Him for direction, regardless of the response we will get from people. May our God compel us as His servants.