Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Price and Pay-Off of Popularity

As a Mom to two boys, I assumed that I would escape the drama of hearing my kids beg for the latest trend in fashion...wrong! I've found that boys can be just as picky about what they're wearing, only it's a plea for the latest athletic wear...if I had a dollar for every time I've heard "every body's wearing them!" then I might actually be able to afford these overpriced gym clothes. Name brands like UnderArmor, Nike, & Reebok...The price to fit-in is too high in my opinion.
It's not just about what's on the outside - this "people pleasing" phenomenon spreads into
....how we think,
..........what we believe,
 ...............................and how we live our lives.

Culture, fueled by the "popular" and the "majority" decides what is acceptable.  Unfortunately, this is evident even in the church, where we sometimes struggle to fit God's Word into a nice little package that doesn't offend anyone. After all, if we want to truly be accepted, we can't just look the part, but must match our ideologies with what's popular. Otherwise, we stand the risk of being labeled with a less than flattering title.

Understandably this is a problem for Christians, who are called to be light in a dark world. Popularity is not our goal, and should not be confused with influence. We want to be people who make a difference, but it must be done without compromising the truth. Otherwise, we could fall into the trap called "the fear of man". Fearing man's opinion above God's is called a "snare" (Prov. 29:25).
As always, it is very important that we speak this truth in LOVE!!!  Culture changes over the years based on what is now acceptable. God's Word never changes. This can cause a problem when the two collide...

Why is the majority so hostile to those who don't conform? 

Last Sunday our Pastor started a series from the Book of Esther. As he was reading the Scriptures for his sermon, this verse jumped out at me.
"All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor." - Esther 3:2
While this was not the subject of his teaching, I was overwhelmed by the similarity of Esther & Mordecai's plight to what we as Christians face today.
As a Jew, Mordecai was to bow down to God alone - so he was following his conscience to obey God's law rather than the kings. The Scripture goes on to say:
"When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes." - Esther 3:5-6
How is this similar to what Christians face today?

At times the world's way of thinking goes against what God has commanded of us - in these moments, whom should we obey? When we follow our conscience to obey God's Word, as Mordecai did, we go against the status qua and make many enemies. Just as Haman wasn't satisfied with punishing Mordecai alone, but rather made plants to wipe out the entire Jewish race, so our enemy (the devil) wants to silence the voice of all Christians who are not bowing to his plan.

In the New Testament, we see that while Jesus loved the people, He was NOT concerned with pleasing them:
  • Jesus purposely healed on the Sabbath just to shake up the religious leaders (Mark 3:1-6)
  • He turned over the money tables in the Temple (John 2:15)
  • He cast out demons and sent them into the pigs, who then jumped off a cliff. Those tending the pigs went and told the townspeople, who then begged for Jesus to leave. (Mark 5:17) They seemed unhappy that he delivered a man and let the demons destroy the pigs (all about money)
  • Jesus taught things that the people said were too hard to follow, like "eating his flesh and drinking his blood". Many of His disciples left. Jesus just asked "does this offend you?" Upon seeing some leave, He simply asked the Twelve "Do you want to leave too?" (John 6:54-67)
These are just some examples - In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36 that He didn't come to bring peace, but a sword. He wasn't speaking literally, but instead making the point that His message would be a dividing factor, between those who would accept Him and those who would not. Further evidence corresponding with this Scripture is found in 2 Cor. 2:15:
"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life..."
Even with all of this...Jesus was love epitomized. He laid down His life for us while we were still sinners - who could love someone more than that?
So we see, loving someone doesn't mean that we don't speak the truth that at times is not widely accepted. It doesn't mean that you won't get persecuted or asked to leave, or have people turn away from you because you're misunderstood.

What is the price and pay-off of popularity?
  • Price = Conforming to the world's system and turning your back on God's truth puts spiritual blinders on your eyes and can harden your heart to God's plan for your life.
  • Pay-off = Momentary recognition, but with no eternal value 
What is the price and pay-off for following God's Word?
  • Price = Persecution - John 15:20 says "Do you remember what I told you? 'A slave is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you."
  • Pay-Off = Reward - Matthew 5:10-12 - "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
  • Pay-Off = Good company - you are following in the shoes of the prophets, disciples, and other Believers who weren't ashamed to stand up for the Gospel (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 12:1)
Let's end with this decision:

Joshua 24:15 asks for the people to choose this day whom they will serve...either the gods of their ancestors, or the Lord. He said, "But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

Based on the above Scripture, the decision for us today is:
Will you follow the culture and seek man's approval? Will you sacrifice God's truth for being accepted? Will you fear man more than God?

Or will you not be ashamed of the Gospel, and of God's Word, and speak the truth in love?

1 comment:

  1. Everything has it's cost doesn't it. We just have to decide how much we're willing to pay. Going against the crowd takes courage and fear of God.