Many Christian influencers are writing thoughtful blogs, speaking good words on podcasts, and authoring books. What they are saying is good and helpful and based on God’s Word.
But a lot of others are expressing their thoughts around one theme – “Don’t be concerned about what others think. Be yourself and do what you want to do.” They also find verses to back up what they’re saying … well, sort of. The verses are often out of context and pulled from here and there to support their views.
Hmmm … I have some thoughts about this.
First, as a creative person, I often think about life a little differently than many people. I like collecting counties, wandering through streets of unknown towns, and decorating my kitchen wall with old menus. Not earth-shattering activities, but enough that I’ve heard people say, “I’d be bored doing all the things you find unboring.” I get obsessed with ideas and goals and other facets of life.
Second, as a pastor’s kid and then a pastor’s wife, I totally understand what it means to have other people judge what I am doing … the lady who decided to critique my skirt length when I was home from college, the man who felt it necessary to drive by our house at Christmas and then criticize us publically because we had put up lights around our door and windows (maybe four strands?), the man who rather condescendingly announced I didn’t look like a pastor’s wife.
And maybe that’s where some of my being-my-own-person-attitude helps. My parents were ok with the skirt length – that’s all that counted. Ken spent about 20 minutes putting up the lights (yes, that’s all) – not too ostentatious. And I just stared at the man with his preconceived thoughts about pastor’s wife identity. I looked like what I looked like and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
But even though there is a time and place to do what we want to do without caring how others react, there is also a time and place when we SHOULD care.
Because sometimes what we do does matter.
First of all, is what we’re doing pleasing to the Lord?
Paul wrote: Romans 12:2 — Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
No matter how much we want to do something because it feels right, looks fun, or is something everyone is doing — if we are conforming to the world, we need to STOP. If we aren’t living as the Lord would want us to live, then we need to change what we’re doing. That’s all there is to it. No discussion. Living according to God’s Word is a priority. And yet today, many are ignoring God’s standards and morphing what God says into their own set of standards so they can do what they want and feel justified. (And then they share with the world so others can feel justified, too.)
When what we want to do contradicts Scripture, we have a problem.
Second, is my husband with me on this? I took a vow to love, honor and respect him (which was not hard for me to do because I did love, honor, and respect him), and that meant caring about his opinion. If there was something I knew he wouldn’t want me to do, I didn’t do it. (That went the other way too.)
When I was offered the job at Awana, I wasn’t sure whether or not to take it. The biggest concern was the commute (70 miles one way). Ken and I talked about it, prayed about it, thought it through. And after endless hours of discussion, Ken sat across from me in the Pizza Hut in Moab, Utah (long road trip, hot day) and said, “If you want, I think you should take the job. This is good timing and it’s a good fit for you.” So, I did. But – if he had told me he didn’t think I should take the job (after all those hours of discussion), I wouldn’t have. Agreeing to the job was a big decision and we made it together. Just like we discussed church changes together. I didn’t agree to the big things on my own and neither did he.
Third, what if someone from my ministry is watching? I’ve taught and still teach a lot of children and teens. I teach them life-behavior from God’s Word and I don’t want them to see me NOT practice what I teach. (I am talking about moral, right vs. wrong standards – not the amount of Christmas lights we hang.) I almost lost a job once because to give in to my bosses’ demand was the exact opposite of what I had been teaching the teens I worked with at church. Even though the thing itself wasn’t wrong, the circumstances were wrong. I didn’t want the teens to see me do something I had told them not to do.
That doesn’t mean we should be paranoid about every decision we make, because we shouldn’t. In many circumstances we can do our own thing. But if we know someone will “stumble” over what we do, maybe a better choice would be NOT to do it.
Sometimes those decisions are difficult.
Peter wrote : knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19) We were bought with a price, an incomprehensible price. We need to recognize that and to live it out in our daily lives.
Let’s be honest. We’ve all cared about what other people think at times when we really shouldn’t have cared. But then there are other times we didn’t care and we probably should have.
Paul wrote to Titus: Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works. (Titus 2:7)
Models do what they do because they are being watched.
And we, too, are being watched.
Seriously. Life really isn’t all about us.