John 12:42-43 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
John had no trouble seeing through the motivation of people because he had heard Jesus address this very topic: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44) These were spiritual leaders, the cream of the cream, and yet they cared more about their leadership position among men than their standing before the God they claimed to serve. Probably many of these, like Nicodemus, came out into the open with their faith after the crucifixion and resurrection, but their repentance was doubtless very painful to them, filled with regret for having been so stupid. We human beings have a seemingly limitless capacity for being stupid! The irony is that we delight in laughing at the stupidity of others, feeling superior in the process. The Internet is filled with “fail” videos, and some of them reach the level of sadism, showing even fatal accidents. We need more self-awareness than that! There is a Japanese proverbial expression that is all too often appropriate: “Acorns comparing height.” As Paul said, “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12) Our standard is to be God Himself, particularly as expressed through His Son, Jesus Christ, so there is no room for pride or for looking down on anyone. When God tells us to do something, our obedience needs to be immediate and complete. “Political correctness” should be out of the question. We aren’t to hurt people needlessly with our words, but we are certainly not to dance around the truth because of the opinions of people. That can indeed get us “put out of the synagogue” sometimes, but we are to fear God and not man, and love God more than we love man. It strikes me that what this is talking about is not loving man, but rather loving man’s opinions, which is a perverted form of self-love.
I enjoy the praise of people as much as anyone, so I’m talking to myself here. It feels really good when people say nice things about you and to you, especially when you think they’re deserved! I’ve got to remember that every good thing about me is totally by the grace of God, and not really something I’ve earned. I am responsible as a steward of God’s gifts, but I cannot be a good steward of them in my own strength and wisdom, so even there I’m dependent on God. I am to compliment people appropriately, but always speak the truth in love, seeking to turn their attention from me to the God who loves them far more than I ever could. Again, when people praise me, I am to seek to deflect that praise to God, to whom I owe everything good anyway.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for doing everything perfectly, and for occasionally even using me in the process. Thank You again for prompting us to visit that saint two days ago, and for taking him home less than 24 hours later. Thank You for enabling us to sing, When We All Get to Heaven with him, giving him permission to go to his reward. He was certainly someone who cared more about your opinion than any other. I do pray for his wife and children in this time. They are rejoicing to know he is with you, yet grief is still real and appropriate. May they too care only what You think and say about them and their situation, and receive strength and comfort to thank and praise You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!