It’s not often that I so clearly identify myself as one of the Pharisees. You know who I’m talking about? The nasty religious leaders of Jesus time. They gossiped. They plotted. They cheered on the crucifiction.
In my more empathetic moments, I sometimes think I MIGHT be able to “get” their misunderstanding of Jesus. After all, Jesus’ first announcer as the Messiah is a dude (more reverently referred to as John the Baptist) wearing an animal skin ‘tard, noshing on insects and screaming “Prepare ye the way!” while everyone did their best to get OUT of his. John doesn’t come across as the most reputable of identifying sources…first impressions might not be his strong suit.
But even with Jesus’ “interesting” street cred, I feel like the Pharisees should have given Jesus a chance. Generally my high sense of self (aka my pride) leaves me yelling “You brood of vipers!” at the Pharisees when I see them in the pages of Scripture…as if I’ve never disregarded something Jesus said because the street cred was less-than-cool (there’s that pride again!).
So when I was reading in John 12 this morning and verse 43 lept off the page, did a little back-flip and set-off party alarms right before my bleary, not-enough-sleep eyes, I knew I was in for a oh-so-sweet backhand from the Holy Spirit. Ok, ok…He would never literally backhand me…poor choice of words maybe, but when my pride has to take a backseat, well, let’s just say the “pride going with the fall” FEELS like a slap. And in reality, it’s all my own doing. *Ouch!* Just felt it again.
“For they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” John 12:43
The “they” in this verse is the crowd hanging out listening to the Pharisees have a chat with Jesus…they had a choice: listen to what the Pharisees were peddling or listen to Jesus. With John the Baptist as Jesus’ backer and history/the synagogue/tradition as the Pharisees backer, the people easily allowed their ears to be tickled with the Pharisees lies versus the truth of Jesus.
They loved...this greek word for love refers more toward their will than anything else. It was a choice.
…the approval of men…approval here is such an interesting word. In Greek it’s “doxa,” aka glory or recognition.
They chose the recognition of men over the recognition of God. They wanted men to see them. They wanted their coffers to be chock-full of cool points, running in the same circles as the Smith’s, owning the same cars and houses…they needed the recognition of men because their identity was contingent upon men thinking them cool. At it’s roots, that’s really what people-pleasing is all about: identity. We all have a need to be recognized. We need for someone to find value in us. For if they don’t find us to be valuable, then where do we get our value from? Certainly WE know that at the root we are a sham. After all, no one is as put-together as they seem. So we see our flaws and need someone else to tell us we aren’t as bad as everyone else…in fact, we might even make the B team. We need others to tell us we really are ok. Right? Maybe…unless you’re a follower of Jesus and want that whole identity thing to be rooted in truth.
Yes, His truth seems a little crazy. But when I realize one of Jesus’ m.o. is to use crackpots to speak His message (case in point, He sometimes uses me!), I start to think: “He lets his messengers show their weakness so we know He takes us as we are.” I see someone with weaknesses and realize He has a stamp of approval on weakness…so maybe, just maybe, He wants me as I AM?
Turns out that backhand from the Holy Spirit this morning was less of a backhanded slap and more of a hug…He wanted me to know: He accepts me as I am. And that right there is an amazing cure for the people pleaser: God loves me for me. I’m praying that all of our hearts gets this a little more today. Maybe you’re like me and a recovering people-pleaser…maybe you have other glaring weaknesses. Maybe you wear a leopard-print unitard and eat ants because they are high protein. Guess what? He loves you. He chooses you. You don’t need to have your name known on some marquee or by that perfectly coiffed mother in the playgroup or by the CEO of your company..or even by that hot guy in your singles group 🙂 You just need to be known by Him.
So sit there today…let Him see your sadness at not being perfectly accepted by people. And let His Holy Spirit speak His complete acceptance over you. I’m betting you too will walk away feeling like you just got a desperately-needed hug.
Love you fiercely.