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Driven By The "Like" Button

One of my heart’s life-long battles has been to seek people’s affirmation of love by being for them what I think they desire me to be. Tragically, I am a people pleaser. I have developed skills at reading people. I know backwards and forwards the institutions’ criteria for acceptance. I’ve canonized the rules for the affirmation of love, and I perform accordingly. Early on, I mastered the art of pretending to be someone you will like. I longed for clicks on the ‘like Brad’ button.

I learned early on in school that I was loved for what I did and how I behaved, and not for who I was. I was in charge of teacher’s moods, rewarded for good behavior—and shamed, labeled, and rejected for bad behavior. I got so good at pretending and performing that most years I won the ‘citizenship’ (most godly kid) award for my class at school, and I’m pretty sure the only reason I didn’t win it every year is because they couldn’t just keep giving it to the same person.

But it is not just my problem—it is a human problem. Christ and St. Paul both addressed the performance problem, because at the heart of ‘religion’ is the belief that I must perform for God to love me. In Romans 5, Paul describes this performance for God and exposes hearts in a startling way.

Paul points out that our performance problem is exacerbated by a misunderstanding of God’s law. In the giving of the 10 commandments, God spelled out to Moses in greater detail (and in more clarity than ever before) the performance standards. Stuck in the quagmire of not feeling like they were enough, God’s people sought to recover their glory and identity by keeping God’s law. They believed their performance could set God’s mood for the week.

St. Paul says, while we default to believing that God’s rules are the solution to the problem, God’s rules are actually the problem. Not because they’re bad, but God’s greater clarity exposes us. Because his rules shine brightly on us, we now know we don’t even come close to performing well enough. In fact, God’s clarity exposes that we are even worse off than we thought we were.

Nothing has changed. The church culture of our day still believes we can recover our glory and identity with our obedient performance. We are loved more if we are a good spouse or parent We expose our penchant for performance by our burning desire to take the clarity of God’s rules and become umpires who let everyone know that “Strike 1, strike 2, and strike 3, you’re out!”

But then, nobody wants to strike out, so we just need to become better batters. We read books and attend classes so that we can gain more clarity on God’s rules for the identity of good spouse or parent. The prevailing message of the church seems to be one that you will be accepted and loved for what you do.

While it may make us uneasy that God’s clarity of his rules increases sin, it is actually good news because it reveals our hopelessness and opens the door to the breathtaking beauty of Jesus. St. Paul says that in the struggle between sin and grace, Grace wins hands down! God gave us more clarity of his rules not so we could perform, but so his grace could go crazy. Our lack of performance never holds a candle to the grace of God.

I still struggle to perform for the affirmation of love. I still have bad weeks where I mess up on my job. I hear the voices of the umpires. When I hear, “Strike 1, strike 2”, I run to make more visits and phone calls, communicate better, preach a better sermon, just hoping that “strike 3” will never come. I pretend, just hoping that people will like the pretend version of me and hit the “like Brad” button. All these fears, yet I still strike out.

I’m exhausted because I still hear and believe the message that I’m loved because of what I do. In Christ’s kindness, he brings rest. Reminding me of the breathtaking good news that he has done it all. I can actually be honest, take off my masks, and quit pretending. God made his rules clearer not so I would perform better, but so I would give up. God made his rules clearer so His grace in Jesus could go crazy. I’m always learning I’m not loved because of what I’ve done. I’m loved because of who I am. The Beloved.

17 comments (Add your own)

1. Betty Grant wrote:
That was wonderful Brad. I'm saying this not to please you but that I identify wholly. I was that way for years and changed because I was exhausted. Plus the AA program and fully listening to your sermons and God's grace have given me the tools to help me heal from this addiction and allow me to be free.

I've often wondered how you keep your balls all in the air and fulfilling people's needs all the time. Sometimes I put "me" on the calendar but it seldom works out. But i get my rest. That's what Jesus wants of me. God Bless.

Ps. If you fully give your sermon to God you can't screw it up!

Mon, March 13, 2017 @ 10:39 AM

2. Karen rise b wrote:
Haha 😂 I know b'xactly! Growing up becoming severely co-dependent...now to be more free than ever because Y'Shua Ha Maschiach loves me zactly the way I be! I am excited to see who likes me that way...hahah. Thanks BroBrad great article!

Mon, March 13, 2017 @ 11:54 AM

3. Karen rise b wrote:
Oh dear...I can't leave it there...I have to clarify ( so you' ll learn to like me) . I went through a time - years - of 'scReaming' to others that I didn't like the control I was giving them over my life...well, I didn't KNOW that I was giving it. But I demanded my rights so vehemently that I was labeled a manipulator. I was not a nice person with whom to be friends. ..my kids can tell you, my sister can tell you, my deceased mother and deceased hubby could have told you...ugly I was! I was so unhappy trying to please everyone....now with it preached to me consistently that Jesus loves me and I don't HAVE to be something that I am NOT...I am free to be nice and now I know why. Thanks Brad, you are loved!

Mon, March 13, 2017 @ 12:44 PM

4. Mary Christine Stephens wrote:
I learned to dislike religion a great deal. I grew up Catholic and it was always about rituals, religion, saying and doing the right things. Then I met Christ and it was not about religion anymore, it was about a love. We never have to worry about anyone liking us or meeting thier approval. When you love Christ you start to want to think like He does and then everyone likes you because who wouldn't like that? It will wear you out to worry about pleasing people. I just draw close to my blood brother then the rest doesn't seem to matter so much anymore. Thanks for a great message and being willing to deliver the straight up truth.

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