“Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” (Galatians 6:12, NIV)
“Those who want to impress people…” That phrase hits hard. How much time do we spend trying to impress people? How much money? How much energy and thought goes into managing our image? How many Instagram or SnapChat posts are accurate reflections of our lives, and how many are painting a picture to impress others? How much sleep is lost over-analyzing conversations we’ve had and worrying about what someone else might think of us? How many decisions are more strongly influenced by the opinions of others than by listening to God?
As we enter into the Christmas season, the need to impress others grows even more intense. We fret over buying the perfect gift. Will it fit? Did I spend enough money, or will they think it’s cheap? What if they don’t like it? What will other people think when they see it? As Dave Ramsey says, “We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know.”
But there’s another way we try to impress people–a way that the Apostle Paul calls out in the verse above. We try to impress our Christian friends with our religiosity. We puff up our spirituality, put on our plastic “all-is-well” face, and pretend that everything is okay. Do this long enough, and we might even start to think that we are better than others. If they really wanted to be spiritually mature, they’d be more like me. If they really wanted to be holy, they’d follow all the rules I follow and wouldn’t associate with sinners. As James 1:27 teaches, they would practice pure religion that God accepts by keeping themselves from being polluted by the world. Too bad everyone isn’t as holy as me! God sure is lucky to have me on his team…
As I reflected on this verse, I found my heart challenged. How much of what I do is purely for the Lord, and how much is to impress people? If I wasn’t on staff at a church, would my spirituality be different? Would my relationship with God look different? Am I a “professional Christian”? Whether or not you are on staff or in leadership in your church, I think those questions still apply. How much of your walk with Jesus is for Jesus, and how much of it is for the benefit of those around you seeing your spirituality?
My prayer for the week is that God will convict each one of us of one thing we do to impress people so that we can confess and live more freely in Christ.