The importance of pleasing men – Part 2

Posted: April 2, 2012 by J in Bible, Discipleship, Mission, Theology

When forced to make a choice Paul will please God rather than men. However, Paul was not always faced with that choice…

Rom. 15:1    We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  2 Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.  3 For Christ did not please himself…

Here the contrast is between pleasing our neighbour or pleasing ourself: quite a different issue. The gospel message is not at stake here: it’s about the everyday business of getting on together in the church family (see Rom 14). Rather than being impatient and judgemental with our neighbour’s failings, we should put up with them graciously, and seek his good. We should take the part of others rather than please ourself, for this promotes unity and wellbeing in the church.

1Cor. 10:31   So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.  32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Here Paul is in missionary mode. As an ambassador of Jesus Christ he avoids giving unnecessary offence to anyone. If the Jew will be offended by his eating meat sacrificed to idols, then he won’t eat. He has a right to eat, but he seeks their benefit not his own. If the Greek will be offended by his refusing hospitality, then he will eat food sacrificed to idols, and play the willing guest. If unity in the church is threatened by his missionary practices, he will adjust them as far as possible to avoid tensions and troubles.

In other words, Paul bends over backwards to ‘please everyone in everything I do’. He has to be as flexible as a gymnast, and change colour like a chameleon. He will put himself in uncomfortable and morally ambiguous situations. He will take risks in order to please people. He will lose opportunities in order to please other people.

Paul is not infinitely flexible. There are hills he will die on, but many others he’ll just retreat from instead. His message is not negotiable, but his practice is capable of stretching a long, long way into pagan culture for the sake of people.

What’s driving all this? It’s Paul’s missionary calling. He pleases men ‘so that they may be saved.’ Amazingly, another way to describe this kind of pleasing men is ‘doing everything for the glory of God‘ (v.31).

And this missionary practice, Paul commends to all believers: ‘Be imitators of me.’ He himself learnt this mission approach from Jesus: ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ.’

So when it’s a choice between pleasing God and pleasing men, don’t be a men-pleaser. But when it’s a choice between pleasing yourself and pleasing men, be a men-pleaser. 

Summing up this approach, and its mission motivation:

1 Cor 9:22   I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel…

Tomorrow: why haven’t we listened to Paul’s instruction to be ‘men-pleasers’?

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