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.
Caveat: 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.