When It Matters Very Little What Others Think About You

Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Can you imagine what it would look like if a pastor and church functioned like a politician and a political party?  For starters, the pastor and church would need to hire a marketing group to survey the people in the community.  The marketing group could gather people’s feedback, attitudes, and opinions through surveys.  And then after collecting the data, the marketing experts would then craft a strategy to help the pastor and church tickle the ears of people in the community.  In other words, the marketing group would show the range of language that the pastor and church should and should not say to increase support in the community. The marketing group would also help the pastor and church develop a long-range plan to speak and act in a way that would bring about the best reward from the movers and shakers in the community.  In the end, the pastor and the church would be yielding to the popular opinions of what people want to hear, not what they need to hear.  In a word, the pastor and church would let the people in the community set the agenda.  

Now, when we consider this, it is clear that this is not how the pastor and church ought to function.  However, subconsciously the pastor and church often give in to this temptation.  You see, we often believe that the church functions like a democracy.  We believe that the supreme power of the church is vested in the people.  Or, worse yet, we can believe that the church's power is vested in what pagans say about the church - from the outside.  And perhaps, the most shameful view of all is to believe that the sole power of the church is vested in the pastor’s opinions. 

Tragically, I am sure we have all seen fights in the church over the years, where various groups fight for control of the church.  The pastor says one thing, church members say another, and then the pagan on the street says something else:  

“We must listen to the pagan on the street, for our major concern is evangelism and outreach – how to reach the lost!”

“We must listen to the pastor, for our major concern is to respect his authority – we don’t want him to leave and be without a pastor!”

“We must listen to the longstanding members of the church, for they have been here the longest – we don’t want them to stop giving to the offering plates!”

Lord, have mercy! 

In our reading from 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul says that he really does not worry about what anyone else thinks.  Now, Paul is not trying to be arrogant here.  He is also not saying this with hatred or scorn.  He is not despising other people.  Instead, he simply says he feels the same way about everyone.  Whatever a person’s rank, character, talent, or learning was, Paul regarded them as equal and secondary to Christ.  That is to say; the Apostle Paul did not answer to mankind but to his Master – Christ Jesus.  For Paul, it mattered very little to him what others thought of him and even less where he ranked in popular opinion.  And again, the reason being, the Lord Jesus was the One who examined Paul.  Paul’s master was Jesus, not the people around Him. 

And so, dear friends, as a church and as a pastor, we do not answer to the opinions, feelings, and desires of mankind.  Furthermore, your opinions, feelings, and desires - as well as mine - do not control Christ’s church.  The church is not a democracy, and the church is not subservient to the world.  The church is not a reed shaking in the wind, yielding to the popular opinions or fickle desires of mankind.  As members of Christ’s church, you and I do not wear soft robes - we do not bend towards the powerful opinions that bleed into the church from the world.  The Lord does not care about our feelings.  Status in life does not matter to the Lord.  Instead of seeking the praise and approval of mankind, though, the Lord desires for His pastors and His church to be faithful.

Now, does this mean, though, that we spit in the face of each other’s opinions?  Do we kick the dust off our feet and put our noses in the air towards worldly opinions, showing our disgust and hostility? Heavens no!  Again, the Apostle Paul does not despise the people of Corinth in our reading from 1 Corinthians.  He is not advocating for Christians to be rebellious and arrogant.  

You see, at St. Paul’s, we can mess this up if we fall into one of the two extremes.  First, if we puff ourselves up with pride, thinking that we are somehow better than everyone else around us, well… this puts us in the ditch.  And, if we give worldly and manmade opinions too much attention, we are also in the ditch on the other side.  Dear friends, please listen; if we do either of these options, we are not trusting in Christ.  That is to say; if we puff ourselves up or follow the judgments of mankind, we have failed to have Jesus as Master.  If manmade judgments from the world are our master, or if we have made our ego our master, we don’t have Jesus as our Master.

But isn’t this how it often goes for us Christians?  Don’t we easily drift into these extremes of listening to that which is closest to us?  Are we not prone to listen to worldly manmade opinions and listen to ourselves because these voices are the loudest in our lives?   

We are all guilty of this, which is why we need to hear about the impact of Advent and Christmas again.  In other words, if we had a distant god – a god off in the distance who wasn’t really that involved in the world's affairs – it would be easy to learn to trust in own egos or get tied up into the world’s status approval game. A distant god is just that – distant. If we have a distant god, it would make sense to trust in ourselves or listen to the judgments of mortal humans.

But Baptized Saints, your God is not distant.  As we hear in the Season of Advent and in the Season of Christmas, your Jesus came to humanity.  He is not distant.  And by coming to humanity, He – Himself – gave you everything.  He lived, died, and rose for your justification.  He sympathized with your weaknesses.  He spoke His Word for your ears to hear.  He sanctified water to be a lavish washing away of your sin.  He instituted a supper to strengthen your faith.  He did all of this so that you may trust in Him as your Master and not worry where you rank in popular opinion or even have to rank yourself.  

Baptized Saints, your pastors are to be servants of Christ – stewards of the Word and Sacraments. They are to be faithful in delivering the goods of Jesus to you and not peddling the judgments and opinions of mankind.

And you, as parishioners, are not in the church to gobble up whatever suits the fancy of people or whatever the influential and mighty of the world judge as good for a particular time. Like your pastors, you, too, are to be faithful.  Together, we are to be faithful in giving and receiving the gifts of Jesus, for we have a God who has come to us to be our Master – and we, His servants.  

And because Jesus is your Master, it matters very little to you and me what other people think about us.  Because Jesus is our Master, we don’t need their approval. 

And for us as a church, it should matter very little to us what the world thinks of us and even less where we rank in popular opinion here in Minot.  The reason is – the world and even our own opinions are not our masters – Jesus is our Master.  And as our Master, Jesus has done all things well, so we need not compare, compete, doubt, or fight.  We already have everything we need in Christ Jesus, our Master.  

And so, whether we are viewed as the Messiah’s misfits, well-thought-of by others, or mostly kicked around – it matters very little to us because Jesus is our Master – and we are His servants.  

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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