” Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).”
The end of the football season is upon us, and with that is something called the “Coaching Carousel”. This is the revolving door of coaches losing their jobs and others gaining them.
This week in the National Football League there was “Black Monday”. This is when coaches traditionally get fired after the season.
My own alma mater just fired their football coach after an 8-4 record. The man has to ask what it is he has to do to please his superiors. After all, he was his conference’s coach of the year.
After his last game, he said, “I gave it the best I had for 10 years, and obviously that’s not good enough right now, and that’s what hurts. ..”. He called preparing for the last game as a lame duck coach a “slow death”.
You have to admire this man. He gave an honest assessment of his performance and his feelings, even though his bosses didn’t appreciate his efforts.
It’s tough to be honest with ourselves, and with others. Most of the time, we tend to lie to ourselves and other people about how good we are.
We usually seek to justify ourselves so as to look good. It’s rare that we offer a sincere evaluation of our peformance, noting that we have given our all, and it be the truth.
The tendency of humans toward self justification and shading the truth about our own performance probably influences others’ opinions come evaluation time. When we fail to meet their standards, they usually see it through jaundiced eyes. To them, our supposed failure is due to a flaw in our character somewhere.
They may in fact be right, but not always. In the Bible, we have stories of people like Ananias and Sapphira, who sold a property and pretended to give all of the proceeds to the church (Acts 5:1-10). They deserved their punishment.
On the other hand, Job’s suffered and it was interpreted by his friend Eliphas to be the effect of his own sinfulness (Job 5:17-26). God wasn’t very happy with Eliphaz’s corrupt theology. Indeed, He was angry (Job 42:7).
Job himself came to the end of his own understanding of what was happening to him. He admitted that there were just some things that were beyond his capacity (Job 42:3-6).
We fallen humans have an incomplete comprehension of who God is, and we also judge each other unfairly. Both of these features of our nature came into play when the authorities observed the actions of the early apostles.
When Peter and the others performed amazing things on behalf of Jesus and began to gain a following for Him, they made others jealous and angry. In fact, the religious leaders of their day threw them in jail.
Despite the threats to their well being, Peter and the apostles offered a truthful interpretation of the situation. Here’s their story from Acts Chapter 5:
“The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’
“Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’
Ouch! How do you think the religious authorities interpreted these statements? Acts 5:33 explains their response: ” When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
Thankfully, the apostles had an advocate among the religious crowd. A respected member of their group offered some truth, which is recorded in Acts:
” But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’ ”
” His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.”
Sometimes the truth hurts, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira and the Sanhedrin. It saves as well, as it did when Gamaliel came to the apostles rescue.
Regardless of the consequences, we need to espouse the truth. If nothing else, doing so will help us keep our own sanity.
This week I watched this crime show on TV in which a con artist ripped people off using multiple identities. After a while, his cons became so confusing that he himself begin to lose his grip on reality. He didn’t know who he was anymore because he had replaced the truth with discombobulation.
When he was confronted with the truth, the results were not good. Like Ananias and Sapphire, he ended up losing his life.
Whether others like it or not, we have to be true to our beliefs and who we are. In doing so, we will keep our own faculties.
William Shakespeare had a good understanding of the importance of truth. He exemplified its worth in a scene from Hamlet.
As the young man Laertes, is boarding a ship for France, Shakespeare has his father Polonius give the boy some advice. Included in Polonius’s precepts was the following:
“Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement.”
We’re a corrupt bunch, we humans. We aren’t to be totally trusted when it comes to truth.
The best advice Polonious gave Laertes is this famous statement:
” This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
What great counsel from the greatest English bard of all time! It’s quite biblical.
The apostle Paul wrote that we should speak the truth, and do it in love (Ephesians 4:15, 29). We ought not to be like the young boy who, when told by a woman that his mother shares her own hair tint, made this response:”She colors her hair”. Our truth telling should heal relationships, not destroy them!
However, truth be told, the truth still needs to be told. It’s the only way we as individuals and the whole world can be kept from exploding in lunacy.