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People Pleasing (O Freedom! 1)

. 4 min read

2016/07/03 Christ Church,
Mountain Top, Lord’s Table
Children, Luke
7.1-10
Message, Galatians 1.1-17
Today we begin a series of
messages from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, a letter that has “freedom” as a
theme word. Paul is convinced that a distorted and weakened version of the
gospel has threatened their freedom as the people of God.
      And
he is “distressed”, to put it mildly. His letters often begin with a
celebration of his relationship with the church, their shared struggles, the
great news he is hearing.  But not
here.  He dives right in: “I am astonished
that you are so quickly deserting” (1.6). 
Paul typically dictates to a secretary, perhaps because of a vision
impairment.  But not here, he has to
write, and now, no matter that he doesn’t have a secretary available.  He writes, in 6.11, “See what large letters I
make when I am writing in my own hand!”
      Confrontation:
            Preachers,
“false believers”
            Barnabas,
hypocrisy
            Apostle
Peter, “self-condemned”

Theology – lived! – is important!
Main topic of contention:
relationship with “Law”
      Not
as Torah, broadly understood
      Not
as sacrificial system (replaced by Jesus offering of self)
      Not
as accurate moral guidance (not in dispute)
      But
as a path to righteousness
“Having started with the Spirit,
are you now ending with the flesh?” (3.3)
      And
as a boundary to inclusion in God’s family
            Can
Gentiles and Jews share the same table?
            Impulse
to define rules and exclude persons on that basis
Argument
      Intricate,
obscure, weird
      Will
touch on it, and focus on the human/social experience
“Am I now seeking human approval,
or God’s approval?  Or am I trying to
please people?  If I were still pleasing
people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (1.10).
      Context:
confrontation!
      Application:
much more broad
Me and Robin, early in our
courtship
      “Where
do you want to eat?”
Good: We desire to please the
ones we love
Trap: Losing our identity and
integrity
Galatians 4:16  Have I now become your enemy by telling you
the truth?
Healthy relationships promote
truth in love (Ephesians 4.15)
Any people pleasers here?
Any who have fallen into the
identity or integrity traps?
The freedom of the children of God is a freedom from people pleasing
Now, I can do and say whatever I
want!
      Not
so fast … we’re people.
      The freedom of the children of God is
to live to please One
            And,
that One is already pleased with us!
            “My
beloved, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1.11)
There’s a wonderful old story, a
fable that I read years ago.  I can’t
remember where it comes from, so if you know, please tell me.
      A
father and son are going on a journey and taking the family donkey.  The son rides the donkey and the father leads
the beast.  They go through a town and
hear people muttering, “Why is that strong kid riding the donkey while the
older man is walking?  That’s just
wrong.”
      The
father and son switch.  The father rides,
the son leads.  In the next town they
hear people muttering, “Why does that man make his son walk when he is quite
capable of walking?  That’s plain mean.”
      The
father and son both ride the donkey.  In
the next town, they hear people muttering, “Why do both of them ride that old
broken down beast?  They are going to
drive it to the grave!  That’s abusive.”
      Not
certain what to do next, the father and son resolve to carry the donkey.  They are strong enough, but the donkey just
isn’t accustomed to being carried.  While
they are crossing a bridge, the donkey squirms, they lose their grip, and the
donkey falls into the chasm below.
      The
moral of the tale: If you spend all your time pleasing people, sooner or later
you’re going to lose your . . . donkey. 
This is, of course, much easier
to say than to live. The theological truth is that we die in Christ and rise to
a new life, that we die to slavery and rise to freedom.  As a practical matter, however, a death to the
slavery of people pleasing means that we love Jesus first. “The only thing that
counts is faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). As we love Jesus first,
we’ll have the integrity, wisdom, and compassion, to say “no” to people
pleasing, to live into that Life that lies ahead for us, and to explain our
choices to people who are used to the “Old Me”. 
“I’m sorry that I am unable to please you right now.  I still love you, and I love Jesus first.”

      And,
when it comes to pleasing ourselves, to what folks call the “duty to self”
ethic, we are faced again with this Table, and with Christ crucified.  We are invited to be “crucified with Christ”.  And, we are given the assurance that the
Jesus who loves us first will care for the things that truly matter.