Last Friday a woman in her 40s died after a surgery to implant a pacemaker. The procedure was performed properly, but the woman’s heart gave out. It gave out because she was depressed.
Her depression occurred because someone had spread a rumor that she had been unfaithful to her husband. Not even her husband believed it, but the rumor worried her so much that she died from it.
This woman was a relative of a friend of ours. She was not a Christian. Her death underscores the pain and the danger of being concerned about what others think of us.
Our Lord Jesus Christ knew what it was to have rumors flying about him. From a political messiah to a resurrected John the Baptist to a demon-possessed rabbi, he knew what others said about him. And it bothered him not a whit.
Jesus was not bothered by the rumors because he knew who he was, where he had come from, what he was doing, and where he was going.
He talked often about his entry into the world from heaven. “I am from above. … I am not from this world” (John 8.23 NET). He called his Father “he who sent me” (John 12.44-50). He was sure of the Father’s pleasure and blessing. “I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak just what the Father taught me. And the one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do those things that please him” (John 8.28-29).
In the face of the accusation that he was possessed by a demon, he said, “I am not trying to get praise for myself” (John 8.50). So he never let himself be disturbed by such evil words. His concern was to please the Father.
Jesus knew he was the I-Am (John 8.24, 28, 58). Because of his self-awareness and of his knowledge of the Father’s plan for him (John 13.1-5), he could obey freely, without concern for what others thought of his words or actions.
God’s will for us
God wants us to know who he is, what is his will, and who we are. We are his “obedient children” (1 Peter 1.14ff) who demonstrate his holiness. We are to acknowledge God’s claim upon us and do his will. “For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.18; cf. 4.3). “For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5.17).
Doing the will of God actually makes us who we are. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12.50). This verse defines the identity of God’s spiritual family. Our Lord was clear about the lines that divided between those outside of Christ and those in Christ (Matthew 7.21ff).
Some deny the connection
Progressives, liberals, and others who depend upon a toothless grace to slide past the bar of judgment deny that this is true. Depending on how far they have departed from Scripture, they may even affirm that God will save all “good” and religious people, or those who mouth “Jesus is Lord,” or even all of mankind.
Ironically, just when the emerging church emphasizes action as the true evidence of Christianity, to the detriment of right teaching, many among us have jettisoned the necessity of obedience for salvation, in order to be pals with the denominations.
Such people have much to say about us and spread plenty of rumors: we’re legalistic, we’re tied to an outdated English philosophy, we’re dying out, we’re full of hypocrisy, we’re a bunch of sex offenders. You name it, they’ve said it.
The question is, will we believe it and die from the rumors, or do we know who we are, are we defined by the person and will of God?
His kingdom and will
In the prayer he taught his disciples, the coming of the kingdom is identified with obedience to the Father’s will. “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6.10). Jesus did not pray, nor did he teach us to pray, about non-essentials. If the very essence of his earthly existence (“food”) was ” to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work” (John 4.34), can ours be different? Food here represents “the basic yearning of Jesus’ entire being” (Frank Pack, The Gospel of John, Part I, LWC [Austin TX: Sweet, 1975): 79).
Our primary relationship in this world, the one that defines us, is with God. The first commandment is to love him with all our being. We are to seek first his kingdom and right-doing. No commitment or love in this world must be allowed to take priority over our submission to God.
These truths inform us about who we are and how we become who we are. They provide us with a strong spiritual foundation so that the opinions of others will make no difference in our joy, in our mission, in our identity.