Some time ago, I read an opinion drawn from some kind of research that said men tend to dress for comfort, while women dress to impress other women. Some people have been known to go into debt in order to appear successful to family, friends, and coworkers. I wonder how many decisions I make every day based on what I think others will think about me.
Ananias and Sapphire made the decision to cook the books a bit so it looked to everybody else that they gave the church the entire amount they received from the sale of some land. I guess they wanted people to look at them as exceptionally generous or something.
Simon was a successful magician, and had somewhat of a following. (Something like our modern day equivalent to 1,000 followers on Twitter.) But when Peter and John laid hands on believers who then received the Holy Spirt, Simon wanted that ability in his arsenal, too. He even offered to pay the apostles if they’d share their trick with him. Don’t kid yourself. Simon wasn’t interested in being used by God to share Christ. He was more concerned about what his followers would think if he couldn’t keep up with the apostles.
The Pharisees and Sadducees never stopped being protective of their reputations. We see them throw the apostles in prison when the apostles were leading people to Jesus through teaching and miracles. Any convert to Christianity was one less person who looked up to the Jewish leaders.
But Peter and the other apostles stood firm. They certainly didn’t care that the Sadducees and Pharisees wanted them to stop speaking for Jesus. In fact, they didn’t care at all what the Sadducees and Pharisees thought of them:
We must obey God rather than men! (5:29)
And there’s the point. If you clean up your language around certain people, and let it fly around others you might have a problem. If you laugh at certain jokes, or watch certain shows, or go certain places around some people but not others, you might have a problem.
I don’t believe the Bible teaches we shouldn’t care at all what people think. I care that people see Jesus when they look at me. I care that my decisions reflect my relationship with my Savior. But not because I want to appear like a good person. I want to always be used by God to draw someone to Him, not me.
And sometimes that means going against what others think. For me, it means passing on that alcoholic beverage. It means never using God’s name as an exclamation mark. It means walking away from gossip, or not responding to every stupid thing someone posts online. It means caring enough about what God thinks of me that I don’t hesitate to love the person who is unloving, that I’m not ashamed to reach out to someone others think is too far gone. It means understanding that my audience is not just the person sitting next to me. God Himself is listening and watching me every second of every day.
I believe Scripture teaches that if I am above all concerned with God’s opinion of me, He will take care of what others think about me. And if they don’t like my stand for God’s truth, I want to still stand firm. Because I have to obey God rather than people.
What would other people think if I lived a consistent life, obedient to God? I’m reminded they hated Jesus. They just might hate me, too. But I am also reminded that many were drawn to Jesus as well. My prayer is that when people look at my life, they will think that having Jesus in their lives just might be so much better than what they have without Him.