I was excited to go to Steve’s home for lunch after church. I was about 8 years old and had never been to his house. He was a few years older than me, which meant I really wanted to be accepted by him. Somehow Steve seemed mysterious to me. He had a way about him that was intriguing. So after lunch we went outside to explore. I felt like Steve wanted to be my friend! We were having such a good time when he pulled out matches from his pocket. I froze. I didn’t know what to do because I was taught to never play with matches. You see, my dad was a firefighter. He had all kinds of stories to tell about houses burning down because people did not respect the danger of fire. Steve assured me there was no danger in playing with matches. I wanted to be his friend. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to please Steve. And so we played with the matches…
I thought of this story as I read two passages in Scripture today that I had never previously connected together. The first is a story of man who made a terribly wrong decision because he wanted to please the crowd. We read in Mark 15:15, “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy (please) the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” Pilate chose to please the wrong person at the wrong time. As a result, the crowd whom he wanted to please got what they wanted at the expense of what they needed. They wanted to kill Jesus, so Pilate willingly obliged in order to find favor in their sight. They needed to accept Jesus, in which case Pilate could have refused their request in order to find favor in the sight of God. But Pilate was ultimately motivated by political ambition. He only needed to please the crowd that day because any disruption to the peace of the city would displease Caesar. And Pilate would do anything to please Caesar, even condemn an innocent man to death.
The second passage is a statement by man who made controversial, but correct decisions because he wanted to please God rather than the crowd. Here is what Paul has to say in Galatians 1:10, “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.” Paul could have refused to follow Jesus in favor of his crowd. Paul was a powerful and influential Pharisee until his conversion on the road to Damascus. When Paul was blinded by the light of Jesus, he could have refused to follow Him in favor of the prestige, acceptance, and power offered him by the “crowd.” But Paul knew in his heart he wanted to please God rather than man.
That day in Steve’s yard I was burned by matches as we were melting rubber bands. As I tried to get the hot melted rubber band off my fingers, I only made the situation worse. I was ashamed and afraid as I went to my dad for help that day. I will never forget the lesson of that day: choose carefully whom I want to please. I desire to please God no matter what. Who do you want to please?