2 Corinthians 5.15
And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
I’m a people pleaser. Ever since I was a young child I have felt the need to do whatever I can to make other people happy and feel affirmed. In elementary school I would make sure that everyone was invited to play together on the playground, in high school I listened to my peers and would quickly change my plans if it made things easier, in seminary I spent time complimenting my classmates on their comments particularly when professors were doing the opposite. Even now, I catch myself paying people compliments in the midst of a conversation with the hope that it will brighten their day.
Pleasing other people is important. We live in a world that consistently breaks us down and makes us question our own worth. So, if I can do anything to help build self-esteem, I’m going to do it. However, if I limit my actions to only pleasing others, I start to water down the gospel and limit the power of transformation in worship.
On Sunday I preached a sermon that many people did not want to hear. I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit to preach about the demons in our lives that prevent us from acting according to God’s love. I focused on the demonic power of homophobia, but the same sermon could have been focused on racism, materialism, sexism, etc. And honestly, I was afraid to preach it. In the days leading up to Sunday, I started thinking about scrapping it for something else because I was worried about how everyone would react.
I know that some of the people from St. John’s are not happy about what I said because they told me so on their way out. As I listened to their comments, and saw people shaking their heads in disagreement, I started to take it personally and felt defeated. Thoughts bounced around in my head like: What happens if they don’t come back because of me? What will they tell their friends about what I said?
But then I read 2 Corinthians 5.15.
If I only worry about how people see me, and hear me, and react to my words, then I am only living for myself instead of for Christ. If I spent every Sunday only affirming the faith and actions of the congregation, then we would never feel challenged to be better.
One of the greatest challenges of being a disciple is learning to let go of our selfish needs and desires. We are called to live for the one who died and was raised for us. If we live for Christ then we will have the strength to preach the truth at all times in all places. If we live for Christ we will learn to both praise and challenge the people around us without fear.
This week, let us take a step back and remember who we are and whose we are. Let us pray for the Lord to give us the courage to be honest with the people in our lives. And let us truly live for the one who died and was raised for us.