Making Peace or Pleasing People?
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Colossians 3: 22
"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time...Go home and get a nice quiet sleep." These words spoken by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on September 30, 1938, became famous for the lack of peace they brought. The agreement made between Great Britain and Germany at the Munich Conference in 1938 did not bring peace to the world, it only delayed the on slot of a world war. The act of appeasement or the effort to pacify an enemy in order keep the peace, was visually captured for all generations by the picture of Chamberlain waving the signed agreement paper as he stepped off of his plane. The peace he proclaimed would only last about one year. Britain declared war on Germany in early September 1939. The leadership of World War II is often criticized for their lack of action and quickness to appease Hitler, but ultimately they were trying their best to not repeat the destruction and death that the rapid road to war World War I had brought upon Europe.
Jesus states in Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.." We are called to be peacemakers, but peacemaking and keeping are hard. It is hard to keep peace in families of strong personalities. Peace is hard to maintain in the workplace between misunderstood management and undervalued workers. Peace is elusive in diverse neighborhoods, schools, and churches. It is nearly impossible with opposing views in politics. Peacemaking is hard work. It involves empathy, patience, and compromise, but it shouldn't come at all costs. I grew up a peacekeeper. But, my peacekeeping methods were flawed. I believed peace only came through pleasing. Peace with teachers meant pleasing them with compliance and good grades. Peace with parents was gained through obedience and quietness. Stellar, timely work meant less friction with college professors. Pleasing my administrators with long hours, low failure rates, and few parent complaints translated into less conflict at work. I confused people pleasing with peacekeeping. I bought into the idea that peace had to come at any cost and that if people were happy with me and there was no conflict, then I was being the person I was supposed to be and was doing the right thing. I felt loved when people got along with me and we were at peace.
Colossians 3:22 tells me something different. Paul writes that we are to work not as people pleasers, but as God pleasers. In other words, we are not to do what looks good to someone else in order to "keep the peace" or make our lives less stressful. We are to live our lives in authenticity and right relationship with God. You see, ultimately I please people because I am more afraid of their reaction than I am of God's reaction to what I say or do. I please because I am afraid of disapproval, disappointment, disagreement, or above all else, their rejection. Paul tells me my focus needs to be on God, not others. God's love and acceptance of me surpass the temporary good feelings I get from pleasing those around me. Knowing this should give me the strength to be authentic in my relationships. I don't need to please others because I am fully accepted by God. When I act from this mindset, I can become the agent of reconciliation and peace that God wants me to be without worrying about the rejection of those around me.
So, let's take a lesson from the past and realize that pleasing people will not keep the peace for long. In relationships, conflict and disappointment are inevitable, but when we act with a sincere heart fearing God we can be at peace with our choices knowing "that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward."
Things to Ponder: Who are you trying to please today? What motivates you? Do you do things in order to receive the praise of others or because you know God wants you to do them? How can you be more authentic in your relationships today?
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.