Three Cords of Robust Unity (Part 3)
The first cord of robust unity is unity under the truth alone. The second cord is unity through a singular goal—the glory of God alone. The third cord is unity through seeking the pleasure of God alone.
A very present danger exists in the church. Part of its threat is that it masquerades as the right thing to do. It is the desire to please people. Among youth it is often called peer pressure. Sometimes we call it people-pleasing. Biblically, it boils down to the fear of man, and all this reveals man-centeredness.
We live in a consumer culture. The major players on the stage of our culture are the product, the customer, and the management. If the customer isn’t happy with the product, he appeals to the management. (He also feels free to share his dissatisfaction with his friends.) And though he be fickle, the customer is considered to be always right! This kind of thinking has permeated church walls.
Pleasing people seems expedient, and it may be in the fast food industry—but not in “the church of the living God” (1 Tim 3:15). Scripture speaks of religious people who “loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:43). These are “men-pleasers” (Eph 6:6).
The apostle Paul had an entirely different perspective. After writing some hard things to the Galatians, he wrote: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant [doulos; i.e., slave] of Christ” (Gal 1:10).
Notice that the favor of men and the favor of God are set at odds with one another. What’s more, Paul said that if he were still trying to please men, he would not be a slave of Christ. Here’s the stunning implication: as long as a person lives for the pleasure of people, he cannot be a Christian (cf. Eph 6:6).
Christ the Master said many things that were hard for people to accept. After one such occasion of teaching in a synagogue, “many of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble?’” (John 6:60–61).
Their grumbling at the “management” didn’t stop the Lord from telling them more hard things: “‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’ As a result of this, many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:65–66).
With the full knowledge that what He was about to say would turn them away from God, who was standing in their very presence, Jesus still told them dividing words of perfection.
Submitting to Christ means accepting the hard things He says. Not only that, but we are also obligated to tell others what God has said. True followers (slaves) of Christ are conscience-bound to the Word of God. There will always be those who heap scorn and hurl accusations against those who are conscience-bound to the Word of God. But no threat dissuades us: born-again people enjoy a stalwart unity by seeking the pleasure of One.
Seeking to please people always brings division because people have divergent desires. Man’s natural desires range from fickle to idiosyncratic to wicked. It is impossible to be united in our churches if we try to meet everyone’s wants. Not only is it an exercise in futility, people-pleasing is evil because people-pleasers turn their backs to their Creator so they can wow a creature.
Even though many people took offense at Jesus (Matt 13:57; Mark 6:3; Luke 7:23; Rom 9:33; 1 Pet 2:8; cf. Matt 11:6), He Himself said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29). And such should be our aim—always to do the things that are pleasing to the Father. “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Cor 5:9).
Whitney Oxford is a graduate of The Expositors Seminary and serves as a lay leader at Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, FL.