I have met and talked with people who literally get upset when they are “unfriended” by someone on social media. Those same individuals are also preoccupied with how others perceive them. They always want to know what people think about them and worry incessantly when someone “unfriends” them or replies to a post with a critical response. Instead of living their lives according to their perception or moral teachings, they prefer to live their lives according to the “likes” on their social media pages. To them, seeing that “like” is comparable to a drug high and so many have to have their daily or even their hourly fix. If they see a critical response to a post, a picture or share, they are “freaked out” by it and spend hours wondering why a certain person responded the way he or she did and what others think about the response.
The interesting part of this is that this obsession with being “liked” and “friended” carries over into other areas of their lives. They worry about how people will perceive them at work, home and also at church.
As a pastor, I have seen so many times when people “play” to those around them in order to curry favor or a favorable response. They make sure that everyone notices that they are at church and are seen by whom they perceive as being the “important people”. These individuals make certain that they sit in the right place of the sanctuary so that they are noticed. For them, church is no more than another social media platform to get “likes” and add friends to their social groups.
I am not here to judge individuals or try to understand their motives. But, when their lives are dedicated to being liked and loved by others, it isn’t very hard for anyone to observe their behavior and see what they do.
In chapter seven of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
In short, our actions speak for themselves. If we, as Christians, dedicate our lives to chasing after things of this world, everyone, and I do mean everyone, will see the fruit we bear. The world will see us as superficial and part of this world. It will point its finger at us and call us hypocrites and say that we are acting “holier than thou”.
When we live our lives according to what others say, we find ourselves in a dangerous area. Just as things change over time, what was once viewed as desirable may, one day, become loathsome. When that happens, people will criticize and possibly condemn us.
Look at chapter twenty-nine of the Book of Proverbs. The author writes, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.”
If people become fearful of what people think about them, then it is so very easy to fall into this snare of opinion. These people will live in accordance with the thoughts and opinions of others. They no longer live in accordance with their own morals or even what they believe is their way of life. For Christians that fall into this dangerous trap, we begin to fear those around us and concern ourselves with how we are perceived.
Paul, in chapter six of his second epistle to the Corinthians, writes, “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
By living for God and accepting him as our Father, we become His sons and daughters. As part of His family, He becomes our refuge and a place of safety. We have nothing to fear or worry about. We know that He loves us. When He provided His son, Christ Jesus, as our once and for all atonement sacrifice, Father God demonstrated His love for us through that one action.
So, I ask that you don’t live your lives in accordance with the wishes, likes and favor of others. Live your life each day in accordance with the will of the Father. He is your refuge and your safety. You have nothing to fear from Him. He doesn’t change His opinion of you at all. You are His and His alone. You are a child of the most high God. When you live your life as His child and not for others, you can and will stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.