Sunday, December 09, 2007
When People are Big and God is Small
On the way to church this morning, Katie was in the car of front of me. At the stoplight I made sure to keep the enjoyment of my tunes to myself lest Katie (or anyone else) see through a rear-view mirror a humiliating view of me singing along.
The fear of man, the desire to be accepted and thought well of by other people, is common to us all. In this book Welch defines the fear of man like this: a fear of exposure or humiliation, a fear of rejection or ridicule, or a fear of physical attack or oppression. In one way or another, every human being struggles with this.
The central thesis of Welch’s argument is: “Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them (for ourselves) more than we love them (for the glory of God.)." If this person will accept me, if this person thinks I am okay, if I can be identified with this person, then I feel good about who I am. If they reject me, though, or do not give me the attention I feel I deserve, then that will just prove me to be the loser I suspected I was all along. When that occurs, our lives and thoughts begin to center on gaining the acceptance of that person, and other people become what Welch calls “person-idols.” As a result, we find ourselves “in bondage, controlled by others and feeling empty". "What or who you need will control you”.
The remedy for this sin: He must increase, while we must decrease. Realize and remember that seeking acceptance from others is often just a desire for self-glory. We must care more for the praise of God than the praise of men. Secondly, grow in the fear of the Lord. “If the gaze of man awakens fear in us, how much more so the gaze of God. If we feel exposed by people, we will feel devastated before God." See Christ as so glorious that we forget about our perceived needs.
What, then, is a healthy need for people and when is needing other people sinful? The answer is in the motive. So long as the need is centered on us (to feel good about ourselves), the need for other people is sinful. Healthy relationships with other people are built on recognizing that we exist to make the image of God (compassionate, gracious, faithful) more visible. Bottomline: "need other people less, love other people more."
I especially recommend this book for teenagers who seem most caught up in peer pressure, but Welch does speak to us all here. It's available for checkout in the church library.