Following Jesus For Other People to See vs. Having a Good Witness

As I’ve been reading through the Gospels, I’ve seen some pretty awesome things I never really spotted before. I’ve written about a few of these on this blog in the last couple weeks. There’s also been some things I’ve seen that have convicted me, that have shown me just how much I fall short of being obedient.

See, I’m a Pharisee at heart. I think it’s one of the possible curses you get from growing up in a church context your whole life. Most of the time you go one of two ways: you get super self-righteous or you ditch the whole thing.  I took that first path. My religion became man-centered. Not around me, but around others.

I’ve mentioned in blogs before how I’ve struggled with a Pharisaical attitude most of my life. I’ve even seen it in my heart in the last few days. I do my Christianity so other people can see. I say things that people want to hear. I do things that people want to see. There’s a fine line between “having a good witness” and “following Jesus for other people to see.”

“Having a good witness” is something my old youth pastor taught me and has been very influential in my life. Do you show yourself as a Christian when you’re around others? How do you speak/act around others? Is it honoring to Jesus? “Following Jesus for other people to see” is the same basic idea, but it’s not honoring to Jesus. That’s the key difference: for whom you’re doing it. “Having a good witness” is living a life that shows others that you value Jesus most. “Following Jesus for other people to see” is living a life that shows others that you value their opinion of them most.

Look at the Pharisees. Several times in the Gospels we see that they have desires to do something, but it would make the people mad if they did, so they withhold.

  • Mark 14:2 – Chief priests want to arrest and kill Jesus, but they avoid it during Passover “lest there be an uproar from the people.”
  • Mark 12:12 – They wanted to arrest Jesus “but feared the people.”
  • Matthew 21:26 – Jesus asked them a question about authority, and they didn’t answer a certain way because they were “afraid of the crowd.”

Fear of man drives a lot of our actions, whether it’s an active decision like the Pharisees or something subconscious we just go to. And there’s sometimes fear is justified. If someone comes at me with fists ready to fly, and I have no business fighting him and I’m freaked out, I’m running. No question there, I will submit to my fear of that man.

But if my Christianity is dictated by wanting to please other people, I am sorely misguided. I am often this way. I say things for the approval of others, or I don’t say certain things in fear of what Christians might think. Honesty here: there have been things I’ve wanted to write about on this blog that I have withheld from writing because I don’t know how certain people will respond. That spits right in the face of the transparency and vulnerability I preach.

Soon I will write about those things.

However, the Pharisees did get something right. They read Jesus like a book. Mark 12:14 – “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.”

May that be said of me!

It’s a common thing to worry about what people think of us, I’m finding. Particularly in the Christian culture. I, as a “religious person,” feel like I need to be constantly aware of everything I’m saying and doing. Not a terrible thing, necessarily, but if it becomes a fear of upsetting people, which I’m afraid it has, that doesn’t help anyone. All it does is lead me to living a life of fear and concern that is not healthy.

Then that Pharisee comes out. It’s a self-justified fear where I give myself license to not be myself for the sake of not rocking the Christian boat too much. It seems to me like we in the church fear any rocking of that boat, like just one little shake will sink the whole ship. Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 16:18 that the “gates of hell shall not prevail” against the church? The church isn’t that fragile. Man may be that fragile, but I don’t think the church is.

Sorry, I got a little side-tracked.

I must grow to obey Jesus for Jesus’ sake, not for others. In that, God gets glory. Plus, it’s more joyful that way.

P.S. I think “Pharisaical” is one of my favorite words in the English language.

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