When we look for the approval of others we are asking them to use their imperfect vision to judge our outward performance. They can’t see our hearts. Our actions often fall short of our intentions, even of our spoken commitments. Failing doesn’t make us bad people.
When those people don’t give us their approval based on our outward performance we often make things worse by applying their disapproval to ourselves. We judge ourselves to be unworthy based on their disapproval when all along God said we are already accepted! Whose word are we going to believe – God or man?
Do we for one minute think that Jesus Christ is going to hold us accountable for winning the respect of others when we appear before him on that Great Day? Is He going to count the ‘Likes’ we received from our fellow humans?
The Scriptures say that God doesn’t show favoritism. God accepts all without regard to their identity. The Apostle Peter said that when God chose to save the Gentile Cornelius and his household. (Acts 10)
Peter then went on to say “but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.” There’s the KEY. The person who fears God and does righteousness is ACCEPTABLE to God.
If God wanted to say, “The person who earns the respect of others is acceptable to God” He would’ve. He didn’t – so stop trying!
Sit and visit with that thought a moment – take a long slow mind-drink of the word ACCEPTABLE. Breath in the aroma and let it wash over your thoughts. Let it settle down into your soul. YOU are most likely a person pursuing righteousness in the fear of the Lord. YOU are a person who need not worry what anyone else thinks of you. You are acceptable to God. Why give a thought to how anyone else sees you?
Unpack that in your heart and in light of the people whose respect you are trying to earn. Does their respect have anything whatsoever to do with fearing God and doing righteousness? Probably not. Why? Because no man will be the ultimate judge of another. We are at best looking through a smudged and dirty lens when looking at someone else.
Outward appearance may not show inward righteousness. We are alarmingly deceived every day by those who wear a veneer of righteousness, a coat of white paint, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones. We can’t always perceive who they are – even the devil himself appears as an angel of light.
On the other hand, some appear to be religiously scruffy and unkempt. But they are crystal pure vessels of righteousness.
At best, all of our righteousness is as filthy rags to God. All of their righteousness is as filthy rags. We stand and fall before God alone and not before those who stand and fall beside us. The approval of men means very little.
Our focus is never to earn the respect of others. Our focus is this, “Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:16-17)
Here’s an amazing thing. We’ve spent all this time showing that seeking the approval of men is of little value. Then, as if God wanted to give us extra points on our homework, He says this.
Verse 18, “Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men.” When we pursue the right things without regard to the onlookers. When we live righteously, heedless of what others think, we get the double bonus! We are acceptable to God and approved by men.
When we do it God’s way, we get what we were looking for in the first place.
Note the emphasis is not on the result – it’s on the living out. When we live out our righteousness, peace, and joy we will ultimately see the result. However, the result is never to be our motivation to live this way.
Apply it. These seven actions will help us stop the old habits of seeking man’s approval while we retrain our hearts to live in God’s acceptance.