But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue;…. (John 12:42).
Have you ever tippy-toed around the church to please a pastor? I have. Have you ever changed how you’ve spoken, acted or conducted yourself in their presence? Yep, that’s been me too.
The problem is, sometimes we forget that they are people too. We place them up on pedestals acting as if they are somehow a superhuman, greater than the rest. We have a hard time engaging with God because we’d rather please our church leaders. We don’t consciously do it, but we do it nonetheless.
As we seek their approval above God’s we see them not as a human being, but wrongfully, as some supernatural source of approval. I remember once feeling as though a student was trying to make themselves look really good to me, and was seeking my approval. I said to them, “I want you to feel comfortable to share your struggles, hurts, and hardships. You don’t have to act like you have life altogether when you’re with me. I just want you to be real.”
I think the real issue in our hearts is that we love to worship the wrong things. We value people based upon their titles and power, not their personhood and humanity. If we actually valued people not based upon their power but their humanity we’d esteem the widow more than the pastor. We’d feel the freedom to be ourselves in our church leaders presence and not worry about their approval.
Sometimes I think we’re just like a junior high kid, seeking the approval of people, hoping we can get the right people to like us. We want to be picked for homecoming king or queen so we try to act right in front of the right people. The thing is, God is King, He controls the entire world. It’s not pastors or church leaders who control the landscape of this world. It’s God and the only person we should be seeking to please is Him.
We must remember that God does the choosing and raising up. It’s how we act in the unseen, it’s how we treat people when no one “important” is watching. It’s how we conduct ourselves not seeking the approval of man, but the praise of God. Just as God called David out to be king of Israel when his own father didn’t think he would be chosen, God will do the same for us, because He sees our hearts.
I remember reading a book once where the author talked about a youth pastor that many students felt deeply connected to, one student even said that it was like having an encounter with Jesus’ love when they were with their youth pastor. They experienced time and time again, God’s deep love for them in their youth pastors presence. I think I finally get it now. That kind of experience is not generated through what I can do for others or what I can build through a program, but what I can show them through my humanity. That I cry, laugh, have sorrow, joy, and pain. That I’m a real person too. I think if we’re vulnerable enough to show people that, they see an aspect of God that many church leaders are afraid to expose to others; their humanity.
If fear is what we are driven by then the approval of people will trap our hearts. Yet, if we truly believe that God runs the world, then we can live freely and fully in our humanity, knowing others and they knowing us. We experience the beauty of God when we throw off our titles to become a real person, fully loved by God, in all of our messes, joys, and pains.
Jesus, may my approval be in you alone, not in man. I want to have a heart like yours. Sometimes I care too much about what others think of me. Sometimes I give them too much power in my life. Jesus, be the true King of my heart, Amen.