“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is powerful and hard-hitting. For good reason. The situation in Galatia was not an easy one to minister into. The Galatians were “turning to a different gospel” (Gal 1:6), thereby abandoning Paul’s apostolic teaching. Paul is warning them about false teachers who “distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:7).
Note that Paul isn’t in the business of appeasement here. He’s not willing to ‘agree to disagree’ on fundamental gospel issues. He doesn’t encourage the Galatians to hold to their version of ‘truth’. No. There is a body of truth called the gospel that the Galatians must stick to. Indeed, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8).
Paul wouldn’t have made himself popular by being so dogmatic. But he wasn’t looking to be a people pleaser. Instead, he wanted to please God. As he says, if he were still trying to please men then he “would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10).
In this, Paul is following the example of Jesus Christ. The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians claimed that Jesus did not “care about anyone’s opinion” and was “not swayed by appearances”. Even in trying to trap Jesus in his words, they recognise that he’s teaching “the way of God truthfully” (Matthew 22:16). Jesus is driven by a concern to please his Father; “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38).
How about asking yourself during this coming week the questions that Paul asks. At work, at college, out with friends, or at church perhaps. Am I seeking the approval of man or of God? Am I trying to please people? Not that we should deliberately look to displease other people by being ungracious, or unloving, or harsh. But you might face a situation where you have to decide between seeking the approval of others and keeping them happy, or pleasing God. And in those situations “we must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).
Obeying God rather than man can be costly. It could cost you a friendship, your reputation, or in more extreme cases even your job. In certain countries, for Christians to obey God rather than man can cost them their lives. But remember, no matter how great the cost, if we try to please men rather than God then we don’t act as servants of Christ.