Social acceptance can be a powerful motivator. Worrying about what people think of us can motivate us to wear clothes in public, wear the same kind of clothes other people are wearing… or even hide or deny the fact that we follow Jesus.
Jesus knew it would be a challenge for us to stand up for Him when we live in places and times where the majority culture thinks faith in Him is some form of stupid or bad. And so He addressed it head on: ‘“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation…” (Matthew 8:38).
But I find it fascinating what He said–and what He didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Just stop worrying what you look like to anybody else, because that’s wrong.” He said, “Start worrying more about what you look like to a different crowd”:
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Matthew 8:38).
In Luke’s account, He piles on the idea of “glory” to contrast with the idea of “ashamed”:
“Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26).
Jesus knows our horror of shame and our yearning for glory. He created us that way. And instead of just saying, “choose shame over glory for My sake and get over it,” He tells us to desire a greater glory and fear a greater shame. He paints a picture of a future moment, when He shows up as King as God, with His all-important Father–and with His retinue and army as well.
He tells us to stop worrying about what looks cool or stupid now, in the earthly culture wherever we may be, and start worrying about what will look cool or stupid then, in that culture. Because that culture is coming. And if we find Jesus embarrassing to acknowledge in front of our human friends, Jesus will find us embarrassing to acknowledge in front of His angel friends! (And Jesus is super popular in the coming kingdom. He’s the King of it, after all).
And if we stand up and say, “Actually, Jesus is awesome, not stupid at all! I stand with Jesus! You should get to know Him,” then Jesus will have so much fun pointing us out to His angels friends and saying, “This is My good friend so and so, the one who stood up for Me that day when… remember that?” Big smiles and shaking hands all round. You will be popular in the angel crowd. Do you want that?
Well, if you do, I don’t think you have to wait for it. Even if we forget all about the angels in the room, they can still see us. I picture them standing there, cheering their heads off when we choose to stand for Jesus and blushing awkwardly and uncomfortably when we don’t. Picturing that, looking by faith into the invisible realm, can help make it easier when we suffer for Jesus in the visible, temporary realm. Feel the invisible peer pressure. You are not alone.
Angels belong to the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven. If we belong to Jesus, we have been given citizenship to that kingdom and we are allowed to live there. But that doesn’t mean we know the language or the social norms. Getting our “green card” is just the beginning of learning a whole new way of life. And in that kingdom’s culture, obeying God is normal and disobeying God is a real social faux pas.
This is part of a series on Reasons to Obey God. I just spent three blog posts on the motive for obeying God that He is our Perfect Parent and He will discipline us in love if we don’t, because obviously, what the Father thinks is of utmost importance. Angels provide a less important motivation, and yet it really has helped me: I want to obey God because it would be really embarrassing in front of my angel friends if I didn’t!
I remember having a vision one time where I was hanging out with Jesus and my angel guardians, His angel friends, and then He told me to do something that I started throwing a tantrum about. And He laughed like a parent laughs, as if He knew that I didn’t know I was embarrassing myself, and then He whispered to me, “It’s really bad manners to do that in front of the angels. It makes them feel very uncomfortable. You know they would turn into demons and go to hell if they did that, and here you get off with just being disciplined like a child!”
I stopped arguing and started obeying right away!
As I’ve shared before, I wasted a lot of energy fearing that if I learned to hear God’s voice, He would tell me to do something embarrassing, like wear pajamas to the office party or just bring up the gospel in socially awkward ways. It’s never been a problem. He has challenged me to bring up the gospel in ways that required courage, but always that were loving to the other people involved. After all, He is a Bridegroom pursuing His bride. His ideas are beautiful, not ugly. Carrying them out is like the privilege of being the closest, most trusted friends that a young man asks to spread the rose petals on the ground and light the candles and hide in the woods with a camera and confetti when he’s about to propose. If she says “no” and breaks His heart, it was still an honor to be involved.
And so gradually, my false belief that “hearing and obeying God will embarrass me” is being replaced with the opposite: Hearing and obeying God is what will lead me to have no embarrassment and no regrets on the day it matters most. And when I notice that the angels in the room are smiling and waving, they remind me of it now.