The following came up as the verse of the day on the YouVersion Bible app. After a long trip away from home, adapting to other’s daily rhythms and experiencing different cultures, it struck a chord with me.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
Manners and cultural expectations are taught from birth, some more explicitly defined than others. It seems the purpose is to make friends and win favor. However, not everyone follows the same set of rules. Misunderstandings and problems do occur. Bad days happen. So which rules should we learn and follow? Whose approval are we seeking: man’s or God’s?
In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul talks about surrendering his rights and being all things to all people to save some. Notice, in verse 19 below, he uses the word servant to describe his side of the relationship. The word servant here means he respectfully humbled himself. His point is not about bowing down, being fake, or people pleasing to make friends and win favor. It is about respectfully learning and adapting to the rules of different cultures in hopes of reaching non-believers with the gospel, all while remaining faithful to Christ.
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-20″
A word of caution. There is a danger in forming relationships with non-believers, and it lies in their influence over us. It is easy to be lulled into temptation when enjoying the company of a friend and it is our fault if we succumb to it. The Bible warns us about such dangers. Should we avoid relationships with non-believers? No, for then how could we share the gospel with them. Instead, we must be vigilant about spending time in God’s word and seeking His will through prayer to guard against being lured away by our own sin nature. We must also examine what motivates our choices and ask ourselves, “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?”
I must confess, Paul makes it sound so easy and, for some, it may be. But for me, adapting to different rules and expectations is a struggle unto itself. I am sure there have been opportunities to share the gospel that I let slide by me. But I can’t dwell on my failures. I must seek forgiveness and keep moving forward.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9