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Nevermind the Dinner Guests!

Enjoy guest blogger Sara Alexander. Thanks Sara.

Someone dear to me once said, “I’ve spent a lifetime under the wheels of the people-pleasing bus.” What an apt, poetic image. Attempting to be perpetually approved of usually crushes something intended by God, doesn’t it? When we aim to please others we stumble in our individualized races, reflecting a banged-up image of God to a world in desperate need of a good glimpse of him.

Enjoy guest blogger Sara Alexander. Thanks Sara.

Someone dear to me once said, “I’ve spent a lifetime under the wheels of the people-pleasing bus.” What an apt, poetic image. Attempting to be perpetually approved of usually crushes something intended by God, doesn’t it? When we aim to please others we stumble in our individualized races, reflecting a banged-up image of God to a world in desperate need of a good glimpse of him.

Strangely enough the Lord has used the example of King Herod, executioner of John the Baptist, as an antidote for my own need to be thought highly of. You will recall that at one of his lavish banquets Herod offered his stepdaughter whatever she wished for, up to half his kingdom. The girl asked for John’s head on a platter. Herod didn’t want to kill John and was in fact “very sorry,” but gave in “because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests” (Mark 6:26). That’s right, the prophet whom Christ claimed had no mortal equal was decapitated because Herod needed to save face with his peers.

That phrase, “because of the dinner guests” has haunted me. The Lord has often prompted me to veer left when my peers were going right or urged me to speak up when I’ve wanted to stay silent. I’ve hesitated in amoral decisions because I was sorry to think of what friends might think (Incidentally I suspect some of our Lord’s directives have the sole purpose of teaching obedience in spite of what others think!). The example of Herod and the conviction that I’m like him has moved me towards quicker obedience with less deliberation.

In stark contrast to that cowardly king, Jesus was utterly free of the need to be liked which I think must be connected to his staggering track record of obedience. His sole consideration was to do what he saw his Father doing. He tossed out shocking statements and let people wrestle with them on their own, as in his teaching in John 6. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves” (v. 53).  The crowd grumbled, but Jesus didn’t explain that it was a metaphor for crying out loud. In the lovely, understated way of the New Testament John writes, “Many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with him anymore” (v. 66). Yeah, I bet. And yet we don’t hear of Christ chasing them down to clarify. Rather than being polite, Jesus was cutting.

Forget about the frequency with which he lacerated the Pharisees; he was gruff with his inner circle, too. Can you imagine a pastor being so frustrated with your slowness to mature that he asks, “How long must I remain with you?” As God’s Word made flesh Jesus was the very sword Hebrews speaks of, cutting through fluff and façade wherever he found it. Everything he did was in love, yet he cannot be described as “nice.” That should speak to us, powerfully. Wouldn’t it be fine if we were freed from chronic self-awareness and able to be exactly who God has called us to be, without concern for appearances? We will stand before one Judge on “that day,” not a panel of jurors.

When I fret and worry about all the decisions of my little life, the Savior reminds me that my only responsibility is to please him. What relief. Is there an unpopular choice God might be calling you to? Do you need to pray for courage to disregard the opinions of your dinner guests?

Gwynne Johnson

Gwynne Johnson currently serves on the Board of Entrust, Inc., an international education and training mission where she authored the Entrust curriculum, Developing a Discerning Heart. She recently served as Co-Chair of the training project, Christian Women in Partnership, Russia and as Senior Director of Women's Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. Gwynne has a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She currently lives in Huntsville, Texas with her husband of 58 years, Don. She works part-time in her daughter and granddaughter's bakery "The Best Box Ever," where she gets paid in cookies.

24 Comments

  • Avatar

    Andra

    What encouraging and

    What encouraging and convicting words!  I will keep the phrase "because of his dinner guests" with me today as I seek to obey Christ, not the fickleness of others.

    • Sara Alexander

      Sara Alexander

      Thanks, Andra.  Fickleness –

      Thanks, Andra.  Fickleness – good point.  Even if trying to win others' approval were a good idea, what an exhausting enterprise since opinions are ever-changing!

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    Joe Box

    Never mind the dinner guests

    I couldn't agree more! I see this in my life and in the lives of most believers. True freedom like Jesus talked about only comes to us as we are slaves to one Master, Jesus Christ. All too often we let other believers, well meaning or otherwise, sway us to what is expected of us rather than what God expects of us. I love what you said, Sara, about how Jesus was cutting even to His own group of followers. That is freedom. Jesus didn't have to constantly wonder if what He said or did was going to be acceptable. He just kept His eyes focused on and was only accountable to His Father. We would do well in the church to adopt this criteria in our daily lives rather than what is the "dinner guests" expectations of us.

    • Sara Alexander

      Sara Alexander

      Right on, Joe.  I’ve often

      Right on, Joe.  I've often wondered how Christ would have fared in the American South.  🙂 I don't think his church would have been very popular, but his Father was well-pleased.

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    Jamie Fortune

    Amen!!

    What insight you have brought to the table with this blog!  The writer speaks to my heart and soul.  I have been battling with this very thing the past few weeks and as I pray, asking for direction, I read this awesome blog!  This has been printed off for me to read when I am feeling as if I am trying to please too much, it will be a reminder for me for the rest of my life!!  

    • Sara Alexander

      Sara Alexander

      Me too, Jamie!   I pray it

      Me too, Jamie!   I pray it will be a conviction that stays with me always.   I'm so glad God is speaking to you through Herod, too.

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    Robyn T.

    I have been under the wheels

    I have been under the wheels of the people pleasing bus my whole life.  Sometimes it rears its ugly head more than others.  I find that at this stage of life I struggle all to often with it as I raise my children. This article is convicting and hits right at the heart of my struggle.  While I am raising these children that he has entrusted into my hands am I seeking His will or am I following others around me.  Lord help me seek you and follow in obedience as I strive to please you and only you as I raise my children.  Thanks Sara for sharing God's truth.

    • Sara Alexander

      Sara Alexander

      Robyn, yes!  Parenting and

      Robyn, yes!  Parenting and all the comparisons that come with it are a mine field.  Isn't our greatest challenge in this dept. to free them to be themselves and not followers of anyone but their God?  Agh.

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    Brian Marsh

    Jesus and Paul would be labeled “trouble makers”

    Great article Sara. In our society being liked is akin to being good.  

    It's occured to me that Jesus and Paul would be labeled as trouble makers if they walked the earth today. We'd probably kick them out of our churches and seminaries.

    I've been determined for a long time to speak the truth in love.  I'm going to speak the truth, even if it offends you, but at the same time making sure there's nothing in *me* that's offensive in the message.

    • Sara Alexander

      Sara Alexander

      Thank you, Brian.  And good

      Thank you, Brian.  And good clarification – we should be the fragrant aroma of Christ but some people will think we stink no matter what, and that's okay.

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    Teresa Box

    This is excellent! I hadn’t

    This is excellent! I hadn't realized how Christ so knew Who He was that it didn't matter what others thought of Him.Our example of being secure in one's self.

  • Avatar

    Denise Badgley

    Never mind the Dinner Guest

    What an uplifting and well-thought out narrative.  I appreciate the writer's insight.  Obviously just what I was supposed to read to encourage me today!

  • Avatar

    Hunter

    Wise words

    Though I am not a Christian woman, I lurked by to feast on these wise words.  Very very timely and challenging.  I say, "Give me more from Sara Alexander."  And a dash of Dianne Miller too!

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    gay bostick Visitor

    wow!  how many times have I

    wow!  how many times have I read that scripture and never seen that insight!  Your opening paragraph says it all.  We lose something very precious of ourselves when we try to please others and are unable to represent the God we serve accurately.  It is encouraging to see Jesus in this light, detached from others opinions yet loving well.  It invites me to ponder where I am in this and stay out from under that bus.  Thank you!

    • Sara Alexander

      Sara Alexander

      I think you do a wonderful

      I think you do a wonderful job of being who you are, following Christ all the way, and making no apologies.

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    Leah Ouzts

    Significance

    I was studying today about man’s need for significance.  It’s truly amazing how our need to matter can cause us to get lost.  Our peers and social influences can dictate who we are.   Thankfully, our identity is in the Lord.  What an amazing gift. 

    • Sara Alexander

      Sara Alexander

      That’s it, isn’t it?  The

      That's it, isn't it?  The need to matter in the world.  So freeing to lose and find ourselves in Christ instead.   Thanks for reading, Leah.

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    Allison Young

    Very timely wisdom, Sara!

    I absolutely loved this post from the fabulous, Sara Alexander, and echo the prior comment "give me more Sara Alexander"! I too have passed over this scripture again and again….always bothered by the flippant manner in which John's fate is determined, but never focusing on the dinner guests! What awesome insight…and so timely. In a world where pleasing others is almost synonymous with "religion," this is a welcome change of perspective. Write on, Sara!

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    NLP-A

    Stunning and convicting!  I

    Stunning and convicting!  I will be watching for those bus wheels more deliberately now.  I encounter them in many areas of my life- from child rearing to dealing with family, colleagues and students! I agree- write on Sara Alexander!