The Audience of One
One of my mentors used to say, “We are all a bunch of approval junkies.” This is why some people are always “managing their image;” they want others to be impressed. And it’s why people are overcommitted; they don’t want anyone to be displeased with them. If you say no, someone is going to be displeased with you. It’s why some people are overachievers and workaholics; they are obsessed with approval from their professors or their parents or some other important person. It’s why some people avoid conflict, unable to bring themselves to follow the command of Jesus to talk face-to-face because they might be rejected. So much of what we do and how we think is fueled by our desire for approval.
In his must-read book, When People Are Big and God is Small, author and biblical counselor Ed Welch writes this:
“When we think of idols, we usually think first of Baal and other material, man-made creations. Next we might think of money. We rarely picture our spouse, our children, or a friend from school. But people are our idol of choice. They pre-date Baal, money, and power. Like all idols, people are created things, not the Creator (Rom. 1:25), and they do not deserve our worship.”
Ironically, when we “worship” people, we find it hard to love them as we should. Think for a moment about every kind of ancient and modern idolatry you know of. There’s always a give-and-take, right? People give offerings to the idol and expect something in return—safety, healthy crops, etc. In setting people up as idols, as things we put in first-place in our life, we form expectations of them too. We want something in return for our devotion, usually something that the person can’t give or can’t give consistently. So we “serve” them, but our service—no matter how loving—has an ulterior motive. We want that expected something in return. When we don’t get it, we get angry, resentful, or bitter.
Good news! There is a radically different way to live, and it’s found in Colossians 1. We’ll be covering verses 9-14 this week, but our primary point is found in verse 10, which reads in part, “…live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.” Pleasing God is what will bring us satisfaction in life. We don’t need the world’s approval, we don’t need the approval of specific people, but we do need Jesus. And through Him, we can please the Lord in every way.