Have you ever neglected to stand up for someone because of the fear of the crowd? It leaves a sickening feeling in the heart. People pleasing is a problem many of us struggle with.
When I worked in hospital marketing, I invited some nurses out to eat so that we could discuss a project and get to know each other better. One of the nurses disliked a new nurse, so told her she wasn’t welcome. I failed to do the right thing because I thought I needed a majority of the staff to attend rather than have them bail because of the two in conflict. That and I suffered from cowardice and struggled with pleasing the popular over the less popular. How this failure still haunts me and encourages me to be bolder and braver no matter what it costs me.
It’s a common problem. Perhaps you relate?
people pleasing gone wrong
Since we’re nearing Easter, I thought I’d talk about a notorious person who suffered from people pleasing: Pontius Pilate. Pilate isn’t known to be the nicest man in history. He’s best known for sentencing Jesus to be crucified. Prior to the crucifixion, however, Pilate tried to do the right thing before he succumbed to his worries about Caesar and the crowd.
In Luke 23:4, he said, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
He sent him to Herod, who also found no reason for their charges. Pilate said, “Therefore, I will punish him and then release him” v. 16.
The chief priests, rulers, and crowd of people kept insisting Jesus be crucified. In verse 20, it says Pilate wanted to release Jesus and appealed to them again. In verse 22, he tried again, asking what crime had he committed? “I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
In John 19:6-12, Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him,” but the Jews insisted that because he claimed to be the Son of God, he must die. This scared Pilate, who then further questioned Jesus. Verse 12 said Pilate “tried to set Jesus free.” The people kept shouting and claimed that because Jesus claimed to be a king, he opposed Caesar. When Caesar was brought into it, Pilate sat on the judge’s seat and questioned why they would want their king crucified. But their shouts prevailed, and he surrendered Jesus to their will.
Examples of resisting popular opinion
People’s cruelty breaks my heart. My cowardice shatters it more. Why do we care so much to belong with the popular or powerful?
Other examples of crowd pleasing and murder come to mind: Remember all those who were murdered in the Holocaust. There’s some real fear in that circumstance. Yet, God tells us to fear Him not man because God can destroy us in the second death. People can kill us the first time, but they have no power over our eternal selves (Matthew 10:28). Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie Ten Boom exemplified this, as did countless others who chose to follow God rather than the crowd.
According to Leviticus 5:1, we are held responsible for not speaking up in a public charge to testify. (Gulp) Pilate, at least, spoke up though no one listened to him. What he needed was someone to come alongside him to encourage him to not care what others thought. Don’t close your eyes to wrongdoing. Speak up. Bonhoeffer and Ten Boom rescued others and worked with caution and wisdom through their fears.
Decide early to stand for what is right
Protecting ourselves may work for a moment, but it will come back to bite us. Opportunities continue to present themselves. All our choices build. Somebody notices. It is better to determine our stance beforehand to resist waffling when the time arrives. We cannot go wrong by standing on the side of righteousness even if the crowd roars to crucify.
I don’t want to be a Pilate. I want to be a Bonhoeffer or a Ten Boom. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail, but I will persevere. As our faith grows, resolve strengthens. Nobody’s perfect. We can take comfort that Jesus knows our hearts. Pray, pray, pray to act in the way that is right.
Some speculate that Pilate became a Christian. No one knows for certain, but he did say he was innocent of Jesus’ blood and that Jesus’ blood was the crowd’s responsibility (Matthew 27:24). Jesus also told Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:11).
Pilate feared Caesar, the crowd. Sometimes we fear the boss and our peers.
Proverbs 29:25 warns, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
May we choose wisely.
In people pleasing, our choices matter
God’s plan prevails. Of course, we know that Jesus’s sacrifice made way for our salvation. How thankful we are for that. Jesus came to die that day. No one would change that, which although it was horrific turned out to be a good thing for us all. Still, remembering the people that day reminds us that we all play a part in a story bigger than us.
I used to think Pilate heartless, but now I realize his tough position and a weakness he shares with others.
This week, let us remember Pilate, and let us do our best to free those held captive. Our choices will make a difference to someone. What is something you will do to resist people pleasing this week?
Did you read last week’s post in this series? Check it out HERE.
During this Corona virus pandemic, please don’t let fear cause you to panic. Trust that God will protect us and bring something good from these troubles. God bless you.
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Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash.