You may have noticed that I don’t comment on political matters; usually there is enough of that going on on social media and news sites already. And today is no different; I’m still not going to comment!
What I have noticed in many people’s interpretations of the times we are living through at the moment, though, is that as usual everyone has an opinion and expects everyone else to have the same opinion. Worse, people’s hearts are being judged by complete strangers on the sole basis of what they write on social media. Some folks are confronting others and asking them what they, personally, are doing with regard to ‘getting involved’.
It concerns me that, once again, people’s innate judgmentalism is coming to the fore; it seems that yet another set of criteria have appeared by which people gleefully and angrily (both at the same time!) judge others. Instead of concentrating on what they themselves should be doing, they look to see if others are doing that same thing, and judge them if they’re not. The hypocrisy is immense.
As a note for posterity, this piece was written at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, and at a time of rioting in the USA over black people’s rights. But whatever the situations are; this principle of hypocrisy is timeless, and people who are moved by the prevailing situations will vary on the actions they perform to address those situations, if indeed they do perform any such actions. Different people react in different ways – and not all people choose to place their actions on show – or even ‘in view’ – for others to judge. Of course, our actions are not performed for others’ judgment anyway, nor are they performed for others’ approval. In essence, approval is simply the end-result of someone’s judgment anyway, in that others judge an action and decide if they approve.
You see, as I have explained in a previous article, the believer is above such human approval, and instead grows more and more to see things from God’s point of view. And that includes the actions that the person performs in response to any situation, whatever those actions may be.
Jesus said that showing off our ‘acts of righteousness’ before other humans was not a good idea (Mt 6:2). This was more in the context of not showing off how ‘spiritual’ we are for others’ approval, but you see that word there again – ‘approval’? It’s almost as if they were setting themselves up for others’ approval – and therefore favourable judgment – by being ‘spiritual’ and praying on street corners and such-like. But the meaning can also be extended to putting any ‘act of righteousness’ on display. It could be feeding the poor; standing up for black rights; giving money to good causes; all of which are good in themselves but can also be used as a ‘spiritual showing-off’ trick. “Look what I’m doing for [my choice of good cause]!”. In other words, it is inviting the ‘favourable judgment’ of others, in order to improve at least how one feels about oneself, and maybe also how others feel. And that was what He meant by “you have your reward already”.
So, personally, I have never cared what others think, nor have I ever placed myself on a pedestal for approval. And I have to say that the freedom from others’ opinions is simply incredible, although I haven’t really known it any other way. I suppose I am helped in that, having Asperger’s Syndrome, I have always considered others unable to understand my way of thinking anyway (it’s not ‘better’, it’s just ‘different’) and so I gave up trying to make others understand a long time ago.
For these reasons, then, any actions I perform will of necessity normally be secret. I will not tell anyone that I gave some money to a beggar; I would not trumpet it out that I am standing up for this person or that person’s rights. It just wouldn’t occur to me. And I am absolutely sure that this is also the case for many millions of others too, who just silently and unobtrusively get on with their ‘works of righteousness’ without flags, drums or trumpets, and without in any way calling attention to themselves doing those things.
Note, though, that just because no-one else knows does not mean they are not ‘doing things’. Equally, it does not mean that they are ‘doing things’. What it does mean is that whatever they ‘do’ or ‘don’t do’ in the cause of righteousness is no-one else’s business, and is known only by themselves, by God, and (sometimes) by the people whom they may choose to bless by performing those actions.
Another thing is that not everyone is capable of doing things that others can do easily. For example, someone may have a disability that prevents them from being able to do things. I’m sure there are other things those people can do should they feel the inclination. But you see that principle can also be extended in that everyone does things in their own way. There is no prescribed way to help; sometimes it may look like someone is doing nothing, but the truth may well be very far from that. Or it may not. Part of a believer’s freedom is to not go along with the crowds and their expectations; as a believer, this freedom includes you too. I mean, I’m sure Jesus had many demands on His time too. But He did what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19). And that is the path to being free to make a difference: to doing what Father requires of you at the time. If you follow everyone else’s requirements, you’ll not get done what Father wants you to do. Remember there is no ‘should’ as far as a believer is concerned, because he lives in freedom.
Complete freedom as a believer becomes possible when one has shaken off the need to please humans, and this includes no longer feeling you have to justify your actions to others. As a free believer, you are above others’ judgment, and you are also above the politics and compulsions that drive them; they don’t have to drive you in the same way. Instead, if you need a ‘driving factor’, you can be free simply to let yourself be driven by doing what you see the Father doing, just as Jesus was. And if Father isn’t asking you to do something, you don’t do it.
Your life is not there to fulfil someone else’s wish list. And your life is not subject to others’ judgment or, following on from that, their condemnation. Don’t get bogged down in attempting to explain your actions to others, which can only lead to your being judged by them as they decide whether or not your actions (or lack of them) are ‘acceptable’ in their own eyes.
Because, at the end of the day, the only Person you need to please is God.
And you do that, in any case, just by being you. That’s what Grace does.