Note: I’m cross-posting this from my wife’s devotional list. I’ve been writing a number of devotionals for her during a season when she’s often too busy to write them. This one I thought might apply rather broadly right now, especially during the elections.
10So is it people that I’m trusting now, or God? Do I try to please people? If I tried to please people, then I wouldn’t be a servant of Christ! — Galatians 1:10
What is your final authority? How do you decide what is right and wrong?
In this passage, Paul makes it very clear. He doesn’t put his trust in people. He doesn’t try to please people. But even more forcefully, he says that trying to please people is incompatible with being a slave (or the more gentle servant) of Christ.
Now if you read the whole passage from which this verse is take, at least Galatians 1:6-24, you’ll find that Paul is talking about the gospel, the message the he had preached to the Galatians. He was not prepared to give up the gospel of Christ for anyone. It didn’t come from people, he didn’t learn it from people, and he was not going to give it up for anyone.
But I want us to look behind Paul’s concept here for something that is more universal. Normally when people teach from this passage they are telling us to look at Paul’s gospel, and to stick with that. And I think it’s good to check your understanding of the gospel against what Jesus and the apostles preached. But I don’t think that quite gets to the point.
The question is this: Whom do you serve? There’s a Sunday School answer to this. Of course, I serve God. Or I serve Jesus. But are you sure of this? Is your Christian experience well-founded? Can you defend it, most importantly to yourself? Or is it swayed by every suggestion that others make.
There are good reasons to change your opinion on something, even if it is some aspect of the gospel. You might change because you are convinced that the scriptures teach something different from what you have believed in the past, so you change. You might be convinced by a careful examination of the evidence. You might be convicted by the Holy Spirit. It might be a combination of those factors. Being able to change for those reasons is good.
But there are some other reasons you might change your opinion, and they’re not so good:
- Your opinion is not popular
We are hammered with opinion polls in an effort to make us think certain things are popular, as though that would make them right. In politics, yard signs and bumper stickers are based on this idea–if you see enough people who support a particular position, perhaps you should too. Don’t buy it!
- Somebody with credentials argues against what you believe
Whether the credentials involve advanced degrees, popular acclaim, or apparent anointing by the Holy Spirit, you still need to check for yourself. You can find someone with credentials to support almost any position.
- Someone else has a different experience
Our experiences may not match. It is good to re-evaluate your own views based on what you share with another, but don’t expect everything to be the same.
- Another message is repeated over and over again
Much of television advertising is based on this concept. If a message is repeated often enough, you may believe it. If you don’t know why you believe what you believe, it will be easy to be led astray.
- You are threatened
I remember once in college I was having a political debate, and after I had made a point, my opponent announced that he was going to punch my lights out. An observer muttered, “Well, that will convince all of us!” Unfortunately, we often are convinced by threats, not usually threats of violence, but rather of isolation.
Whether it is a question of the gospel, your understanding of doctrine, politics, or even policy at work, ask yourself this: Who am I trying to please?