I Want to be a People Pleaser

We are hard-wired for justice, and sometimes injustice (when we are the ones on the wrong). We always want mercy for ourselves and justice for others. Self-preservation is the default human-instinct. Darwin defined it as a dog-eat-dog, survival-for-the-fittest, world. This is the reality on the ground, presently. But is this the ideal? Is this what God created us to be? Was efensive, ego-centric and self-prioritizing?

In the beginning, God created man and woman in His own image. The fact that God created is our first clue that to be made in His image means to look beyond ourselves. If God was so selfish, He wouldn’t have made us. He wouldn’t have created other entities on which to lavish His love and abundance on Himself. If God were so self-centered, He would have just been satisfied with creating a mirror.

people_please_222908687Caveat: There is a way in which God must be self-centered, and self-focusing. Because of His nature as Trinity, there is a way in which God has to be God-centered for us, His creatures, to attain ultimate joy. Since we are made in His image, it is in gazing upon His face, and not away, that we become “what we were meant to be” — His. As John Piper puts it, ‘God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” And the flip-side to that is that “man is most satisfied when God is most glorified.”

It is while thinking about this aspect of the fallen human nature that people-pleasing came to mind. The popular, psychological, definition of a “people-pleaser” is someone who wants everyone around them to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them. While this may look like a good thing, it becomes a problem when the person finds his self-worth and validation from the approval of others. They thrive on being needed. To this end (extreme), people-pleasing is bad.

But from a biblical worldview, people-pleasing is not just commended, it is commanded.

This is why sometimes I can’t help but wonder if we take the offense of the Gospel as a license to be unloving and inconsiderate towards those who despise or abuse or simply misunderstand the Gospel. Paul says that it is “the message of the Cross” that is offensive to those who are perishing. It is not the messengers of the Cross that are. Now, sometimes the world cannot distinguish the message from the messenger, and that is a reality we may have to deal with. But the Bible makes the distinction clear.

“By their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:20

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:23

Jesus illustrated this perfectly by commanding us to “turn the other cheek”, “walk the extra mile” and “give up our cloaks.” These were not just rhetoric devices; they were also pointers to the grace that we are to extend towards others — including those who mistreat us.

People-pleasing is a sin, but pleasing people is not. We are called to live for the good of others, to edify and affirm others – for the glory of God. And this is not just in response to kindness extended towards us, it is also expected of us in response to any unkindness extended towards us. The difference between wordly people-pleasing and Godly people pleasing is that, in the former, we are doing it IN ORDER to gain something, validation, clout, self-satisfaction.

But in the latter, in the Godly people-pleasing, we please others because of who we are – God’s children created in God’s image, validated in the death of Christ and satisfied in the Father’s approval.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

PS: The best people-pleasers are God-pleasers.

There Are No Ordinary People

In the words of the late C.S. Lewis:

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter;

it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back,

a load so heavy that only humility can carry it,

and the backs of the proud will be broken.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them,

that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.

We must play.

But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.

Adapted from The Weight of Glory

Forget What Someone Says to You When They’re Angry

“Never forget what people say to you when they’re angry, that is when the truth comes out.”

This is a common maxim, one that we often assume is true. But is it true? Are people most honest or truthful when they are angry?

angerThe logic is that when someone is angry, their emotions run high and they put down all their guards and reservations. That is the time they reveal what they really think about you. The assumption is that the demands of social propriety and decency cause people to be dishonest about what they really think about other people.

For example, if you’re slightly (or even very) overweight and your friend always compliments you for your good health and always says nice and positive things about you, they are not being honest with you. They are lying to you in order to stroke your ego and protect your feelings. This is true. We are not always honest with our friends in peacetime. But this does not necessary mean that it takes conflict and chaos to bring out the truth.

Anger is not always truthful, and here are a few reasons:

  1. Most of the statements made in anger are hurtful and are designed to be so. The angry person does not just use cutting words because those words are true, but because they are cutting. Continue reading

Your log, my speck… Wait, that’s not it.

Luke 6: 40-42

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother: ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brothers eye”

As followers of Jesus, we are being conformed to his image and we have a responsibility not only to become increasingly like Him, but also to assist our brothers in their quest to be like Him too. So we hold each other accountable, rebuke one another, encourage one another, correct one another, help one another; bear one another’s burden’s etc. Some of these activities (read rebuke/correction) are not fun especially if we are on the receiving end of the rebuke.  In times past I mostly interpreted the above verse as prohibiting me entirely from correcting my brother when they are wrong. It’s one of those verses you read, feel guilt and figure you should shut-up permanently. After all, at any one moment, I am largely unaware of the plethora of ways in which I may be, and probably am, sinning. Ergo, I have no moment when I have a right to confront my brother for their sin. Right?

Wrong. 

Thinking about the above verse, it appears to play out something like this:

1. Question: Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Answer: That’s a good question! Why is that happening?  If you think about it, a log is infinitely larger than a speck. Extending the analogy to its logical conclusion, it becomes clear that this log must be obvious to you, not least of all because your eye is probably itchy; red; tearing and uncomfortable as a result of its presence. So WHY do you ‘not notice’? Well, I suspect the problem is not that we do not notice this nasty irritating thing in our eye (duh!); its not that we are ignorant of this log, the problem is that we are ignoring it. This passage is not about how hidden sin disqualifies you from dealing with your brothers sin (otherwise you’d have to wait until heaven to confront your brother….which is really quite pointless!) Rather, Jesus seems to be talking about the fact that there are revealed sins we DO know about (perhaps sins we’ve been talk to about) which we are consciously, voluntarily not dealing with and because we are not dealing with them all attempts to rebuke our brothers will inevitably make us:

2. Hypocrites! Yup. If the above person is us then we are pretending! We are claiming to see on one hand and to be blind on the other. We are saying ‘hey my sights so good I can help you take out this speck and at the same time ‘oh no I don’t see  this protruding thing in my own eye’.  We are lying.  Lying to others and perhaps, at some point, will end up lying to/deceiving ourselves if we avoid dealing with the sin long enough.

So, again,  question: if you ‘can’t see’ your own glaring obvious sin how well-equipped are you to deal with someone else’s sin?

3. Answer: you’re not well equipped! At all. If anything your dangerous to your brother. You need to hold up a mirror to your own eye; take out your own log and THEN (and only then) take out the speck in your brothers ( and yes…really… take it out!) Once you acknowledge and deal with your log, life becomes so much clearer and you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brothers eye.

So, what I think is that Jesus is saying is that sin that’s being ignored in my life: prayerlessness, abandoning the habit of meeting together with saints, being unfaithful in doing my duties – name it – will significantly undermine my capacity to be useful to my brother. Until I take out my log I’m not in a good position to help others not least because my motivations and attitudes in doing so could (most likely will) be all wrong and I could end up being mean or self-righteous or hurtful or all manner of other unhelpful things and seeking to do things in selfishness rather than God’s love.

While my logs remain unchecked I am a dangerous person to my brothers. A hazard to everyone’s eyes, if you will! I will probably leave people terribly scarred by my saving exploits.  But if I take out my own log, my own health benefits, my own peace is restored and my usefulness to my brother: my ability to help him/her enhance his/her own sight by gently+firmly pointing out to him/her things he/she genuinely may not even have noticed, is greatly increased.

May God help us.

– J

How Well Do You Know Your Bible?

The temptation of Jesus. It is a familiar story and many of us have memorized the scenes. In the first scene, we find Jesus in the wilderness, thirsty and hungry from a forty-day fast. The tempter’s words could never be more opportune:

“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:3)

And Jesus’ response could never be more … is it kosher to say … cliche?

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

The second temptation is equally punctual. Jesus was the son of God. He called the creator of the universe Dad. God could easily command heaven and earth to bend and break to the convenience of His son. The tempter knows this. And since it was apparent Jesus was evading his temptations by quoting scripture, the tempter also has a couple of verses of his own. He tells Jesus:

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:6)

Jesus, of course, still manages to outsmart the tempter by quoting a countering passage:

“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7)

reading bbThe point here is clear. Knowing God’s Word will help you in your time of need. Jesus did not have to invoke or invent any tricks to get himself out of temptations. He did not even utilize the authority he had as God. He could have easily commanded the tempter to depart, but He didn’t. Instead, He chose to rest in the written Word, and that was enough.

Jesus knew His Bible.

How about you? I know that the question may sound a bit unfair – comparing you to Jesus, whose other title happens to be THE WORD – but you get the point. It is important to spend time reading and ingesting the Word of God. When the Bible tells us that God will always provide a way of escape from our temptations (1 Cor 10:13), His Word is usually the primary way of escape.

Our knowledge of the Word of God depends on how much time we spend with the Word of God. However, this must not be confused with how much of the Bible we have photographically memorized.

If you have ever taken part in any Bible trivia competition or game, you can already guess the frustration I am alluding to. How am I supposed to remember the names of the two guys that Paul handed over to Satan to be taught a lesson? Who in the world is Mephibosheth and what does the name of John and James’ mum have to do with anything? It can be quite frustrating … and greatly discouraging.

Let’s just admit it, majority of Bible trivia live up to their name: they are trivial. Continue reading

Differently Disabled

For Cain, it was envy: he just couldn’t stand seeing his brother blessed.

For Solomon, it was the women: he just could not get enough of them.

For Peter, it was his mouth: he just couldn’t keep it shut.

scratch backThe Bible is a cast of characters that struggled with different weaknesses, confronted different challenges and succumbed to different battles. A similar tapestry can be seen in the world we are presently living in. For example: I don’t get how some people can be so inebriated by sports to the point of hurling insults at their friends. A friend of mine doesn’t see how I could be addicted to Facebook. My cousin stumps me with his kleptomania, even in broad daylight! My friend would rather sleep hungry than sober.

The point: We all have different struggles. It sounds moot. But think about it.

Every time we talk about the differences in human beings, Continue reading

Every Church Needs a Choir

imagesI’ll be singing at my church’s Easter Musical next month! For those who know me, that first sentence sounded like hyperbole. But it isn’t. It’s true, guys. I actually just finished practicing my narrative lines (I’ll be singing and narrating) for the day. “Cornell? Singing in a musical? Get out!” I know. It sounds unbelievable. But not as unbelievable as some of the lessons I have been learning in the few days of practice that we’ve had so far. You see, most of the songs that we’ll be singing will contain 3-part harmonies. That’s right, I know about harmonies! (this is exciting). Anyway, this means that we’ll be having three different voices (sopranos, altos and tenors) singing the same lines but in different styles(?). Continue reading