Sunday, September 9, 2012

Called to Love; Not Necessarily to Please

I've long known that it is impossible to please everyone. But we all know that there is a difference between knowing a thing and knowing it. It has been helpful recently to draw the distinction between showing love to a person and pleasing them.

The distinction lies in the identity of the judge. If we seek to please people--we have made them our judge. We begin to interact with them with significant regard for what they will think of us--how they will judge us; will they be pleased, or disappointed.

For the Pastor, a common time at which we are tempted to make other people our judge is in our preaching. We are tempted to want people to be pleased with our sermons. Every pastor wants people to like their sermons. If people don't like a sermon, it can be viewed as a failure, and if they do like it, it is a success. But whether or not a person likes a sermon has multiple variables. One is the sermon itself--was it or was it not good. But a second variable is the value system by which a person likes or dislikes the sermon. For instance, a person could dislike a sermon because it is not faithful to the text being preached (in which case, they have judged rightly in disliking a sermon), or a person could dislike a sermon because it challenges them in ways they do not wish to be challenged. In this case, ultimate faithfulness lies not in the pleasure of the congregant as it does the pleasure of God. If the person's method of judgement is in alignment with God, their pleasure is important; but only by virtue of the pleasure of God happening to align with theirs. If the person's method of judgement is at odds with God, their pleasure is unimportant, because they are not judging as God would judge... In other words; we are not called to please people, but rather to please God.

However this can be abused. Some take the idea that they cannot please everyone to be a license to disregard everyone's opinion, especially if they disagree.

Finding the balance between attempting to please everyone and disregarding them can be challenging. But the answer, I believe, is love.

It is appropriate that we please God, and God has called us to love. God has called us to the same radical self-giving love that we received in Christ.

So, while we cannot please everyone, we can please God who has called us to love everyone. This means that it is possible that a person will not be satisfied/please with us, and we need not be overly concerned with that so long as we have made a faithful attempt to demonstrate love and generally engage with them in such a way that would please our God.

What are your experiences with trying to please people? How can you release yourself from their judgement but remain faithful to the call to love them under the judgement of God?

No comments:

Post a Comment