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Two groups of people
- Jacob Ninan
People can be grouped in different ways. One that pertains to how we live our lives is to note that some people live by their principles and others by how they relate to other people. In other words, one group values principles more than people and they would not mind if others got offended with them because of their stand, and the other group values people and would rather choose to avoid offending people than be, what they would call, too legalistic. Our personality may have something to do with this, with the left brain dominated people choosing to do 'right' about everything they do, and the right brain dominated people giving more value to their relationship with people.
God has given a set of principles and values for us to strictly adhere to (De.6:2;Ps.119:10)). Even though the Ten Commandments were part of the old covenant and we are now under the new covenant, the values they represent still hold for us. Jesus in fact took pains to point out in the Sermon on the Mount that God's requirements run deeper than the commandments relating to external action as given under the Law. God also warns us that if pleasing people became more important to us than obeying God, we would get into a dangerous trap (Pr.29:25;Ga.1:10;Ac.4:19)).
One of the works of the Holy Spirit in the believer is to write these laws of God on the heart (Je.31:33;Jn.16:13)). When this work goes deep, it even changes our personality, and we begin to give more attention to what God thinks than about others. We then value acceptance from God so much that we are no longer fearful about being rejected by people.
'People of principles' who did not care so much about how it impacted other people also come under the work of the Holy Spirit. They do not begin to neglect principles in order to please people. But they begin to become more sensitive to other people's feelings in the sense that they take pains to express their views and decisions to others without unnecessarily hurting them. They become empathetic towards the weaknesses and struggles others are going through when they are faced with the choice between God's values and the relationship with their friends.
Choosing to please people rather than God can easily be seen as 'compromise'. But bulldozing over people with 'principles' is callousness if not cruelty. Pharisaical Christians who think they are doing this for the Lord's sake do not realise the damage they are doing to the name of Christ; they manage to turn away people from the gospel by their legalistic attitudes instead of drawing them with their sacrificial love.
Whichever group we start from, there are changes that are required in our attitudes and behaviour. Nobody has a natural advantage. The first group may appear as if they are 'real' Christians compared to the other group! But 'religious' attitudes like that of the Pharisees was more detestable to Jesus than the 'ordinary' sins of other people.