As a teenager in school, people always told me, “Just be yourself. You don’t have to worry about what people think of you; just be yourself and everything will be fine.”
That sounded so great, and sometimes I wished that, as if by magic, I could suddenly not care what all my friends and other important people in my life thought about me, or be so easily influenced by them. But, of course, it didn’t happen that way.
You cannot serve two masters
The truth is that I need to make a firm decision about whom I want to serve and to please. And I cannot serve and please both God and people!
Maybe I’m with a few friends and they start gossiping or are just negative. I know what God wants me to choose: He would want me to say good things about the others and to be thankful for everything. The question is: Am I going to do what God wants me to do, or am I just “going along with everyone else” because it’s “not so bad”? It is clear from situations like these that you can’t please God and people. It’s just not possible.
Sometimes, these decisions to break free from pleasing people can be very hard. This is especially true when it is people who have been very close to me, maybe even family members whom I love very much.
Jesus actually said something about situations like these: “Don’t think that I came to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come so that a son will be against his father, a daughter will be against her mother, a daughter-in-law will be against her mother-in-law. A person’s enemies will be members of his own family. Those who love their father or mother more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers. Those who love their son or daughter more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.” Matthew 10:34-37 (NCV).
NO place for sin
Jesus hated sin. So when He said, “I came to bring a sword,” He meant that He had absolutely no place for sin in His life – even if it was His closest family and friends trying to influence Him.
It became clear to me that if I want to please and serve God, I also need this “NO place for sin” in my life. I can’t join conversations where they are gossiping or talking about negative and impure things. And I can’t agree with sin just because my closest friends are telling me that it’s fine and there’s nothing wrong with it.
Instead, people need to feel that there is a “sword” against all sin in my own life. I don’t agree with sin, and I refuse to give in to sin! It can hurt deeply when I have to give up earthly relationships in order to keep myself pure, but I need to make a firm decision who I will serve and please, because “either I serve sin or I serve God”.
No magic solution
Of course, when I love and care for friends and family who have chosen a different path, I really want to see it go well with them. Then I can do what Paul told Timothy: “Take heed to yourself and the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:16. This means that I have to watch myself closely so that I live as it is written in the Bible. Then I will save myself and those who listen to me. I can also show them goodness and love, and pray that God will speak to them and help them to choose to serve Him.
Now that I look back, I wish I had understood that “Just be yourself” is the same as “Don’t be so easily influenced by people.” No, you can’t just magically free yourself from caring what others think, but you can make a firm decision to serve God alone and only please Him. And when you make that decision, God gives you all the power and help you need to always choose that which is good.
So, if you have to make a decision in your life, pray that God will help you to be firm and to only choose the good and to live for Him alone. God promised that it will go well, and when we believe this, we understand that although things will not be magically different, we will have all the power we need to fight this “good fight of faith”. (1 Timothy 6:12) and “to overcome all these things and more through his love“. Romans 8:37 (BBE).