“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
When we see Jesus in the Gospels, He turns the world upside down. Jesus rewrites what’s important, and changes how we see life. He does this over and over again. Sometimes the stuff He says sounds a little outrageous, even.
In Galatians, Paul tells us that people-pleasing does not belong to followers of Christ. That turns my world upside down, because I’m such a people-pleaser by nature. In so many ways, we are part of a culture that demands more of us all the time. People-pleasing is, in many ways, a natural way to live life. But why does Paul tell us in Galatians that winning people’s approval doesn’t lead to life? And how do we stop doing that, anyway?
First, the why. I remember my freshman year of college I wanted to be friends with everyone. I was involved in everything and determined to make time for every single person who asked to hang out. Can you believe that I was exhausted all the time?
If our goal is making other people like us, we end up burnt out and unsatisfied. We just aren’t made to be satisfied by pleasing people. We were created to point people to Jesus. We were created to be satisfied by His love; a love that we cannot earn.
So moving on, how do we stop the empty cycle of people-pleasing that doesn’t lead to life? Romans 5:8 says that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We didn’t have to earn His love, because it was given when we were at our very worst. That’s the opposite of earning approval, isn’t it? We can rely on Jesus’s love to cover us even when we don’t deserve it. When we do that, we find our identity not in how other people see us, but in how Jesus sees us.
That’s amazing news, my friends! Jesus’ love sets us free in so many ways. First, in how we think of ourselves. As Christians, we are called to lean into the love that Jesus has so freely given us. That means that our successes and our failures don’t define us anymore. We mess up sometimes and hit it out of the park sometimes, but whatever happens, Jesus still loves us the same.
Christ’s love also changes how we see others. Because He loved us when we didn’t deserve it, we’re called to love others when they don’t deserve it. We are free to see past what people can do for us and love them because Jesus loves them. Maybe that’s something that you’ve heard a hundred million times before, but it’s so important to know.
Because of Jesus’s love, we’re free! We’re free to love others without trying to do things to make them happy. We’re also free to love others without getting caught up in what they can do for us. That’s great news, my friends!