Last night, my plans fell through and I wound up having a “free” evening. I was sad about the dashed plans, but thought I’d make the most of it and spend some quality time with the Lord. I had no agenda, really, just go and see where the Spirit led me. As I parked my car and headed inside, I thought about a sample of a John Piper book that I’d printed out, called Life as a Vapor. “I’ll start with that,” I thought.
So I went inside, got settled and opened to chapter 1. The heading read:
DOES IT MATTER WHAT OTHERS THINK?
I laughed out loud.
Then I read the first sentence…
“Life is too short to spend time and energy worrying about what others think of us.”
I laughed again. "OK, Lord, you really do have my number. Thank you." And I kept on reading.
What the Lord revealed to me in that was that, though part of my struggle over this whole lunch thing was a concern that I might somehow be maligning the name of God at my office…the bigger part was just feeling really yucky at the thought that people don’t like me. The “whys” were, again, partly about reflecting the gospel and partly about how people perceived me. Which has always been a struggle for me.
The statement above really drove all of that home and made me see it through a new lens. Piper goes through both sides of this…Should we care at all? Should we make efforts to get people to like us? He shares scripture that seems to speak to both sides of the issue…i.e., that we will “offend without cause” and that we should be “above reproach.” Then he sums it all up by saying:
"In other words, with Paul, we do care—really care—about what others think of Christ. Their salvation hangs on what they think of Christ. And our lives are to display His truth and beauty. So we must care what others think of us as representative of Christ. Love demands it. But we ought not to care much what others think of us for our own sake. Our concern is ultimately for Christ’s reputation, not ours. The accent falls not on our value or excellence or virtue or power or wisdom. It falls on whether Christ is honored by the way people think of us. Does Christ get a good reputation because of the way we live? Is the excellence of Christ displayed in our lives? That should matter to us, not whether we ourselves are praised…Yes, we want people to look on us with approval when we are displaying that Jesus is infinitely valuable to us. But we dare not make the opinion of others the measure of our faithfulness. They may be blind and resistant to truth. Then the reproach we bear is no sign of our unfaithfulness or lack of love.”
After I read that I really had to ask myself, "Am I unkind or unfriendly at work?" Though I don’t congregate and socialize very often, I would have to say, honestly no, I don’t believe I am unkind or unfriendly. I am "birthday card girl" and "baby gift girl"…I randomly get flowers for some of the ladies I work with and always try to smile and say a kind word as I pass people in the hallways. Really what I believe it boils down to is that I do not congregate and gossip like the rest of the people on my floor…I’m not part of the clique (and I shouldn’t be) therefore, I was excluded. Should I make more of an effort to be kind and friendly…yes…ESPECIALLY now. This would be an example of turning the other cheek. And, though they never respond favorably, I need to know that as long as I am seeking to honor the Lord in word and deed, that is all that matters.