A Pastoral Admission

Hi. My name is Herb and I am an approval addict.

There, I said it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step in solving it. So, I admitted that I crave the approval of people too much.

This adduction has cause me to respond in unhealthy ways to the news that someone wants to meet with me. You know how it works. Someone casually walks over to you and tells you they would like to get together to talk; or they would like to meet to discuss concerns they have. Suddenly your stomach tightens. You feel lightheaded. Your mind begins racing through anything you possibly could have done to make this person upset with you.

If you’re like me, you immediately begin imagining apocalyptic scenarios where rumours about you spread and the church empties of people within a week. You do a mental run through on every conversation you had in the past month.  You agonize over every possible conversational blunder you might have made in the past month. In extreme cases, your hands get clammy. Your antiperspirant stops working. You want to go hide.

And yet, you know you can’t. You know that conversations in the past have all ended well. You have a track record of working through problems and dealing fairly with people. Even when those difficult conversations happen, you have found that in the past they have not been as bad as you thought they might be. And yet…you fret. Maybe I’m the only one this ever happens to, but I don’t think so.

Now, in the midst of my struggle with approval addiction, insert the passage found in Matthew 12:10 (and the few verses that follow it). Jesus is at the synagogue. It is the synagogue, according to Matthew 12:9 where some of the Pharisees that had dogged him earlier in the passage attended each Sabbath day. Jesus went to the place where those who opposed him were. Wow. I would have avoided their synagogue. Not Jesus. He never passes up an opportunity to teach and do well. So, Jesus goes. We learn that there is also in that congregation a man with a withered hand. Don’t know what that means exactly, but this man had some kind of physical deformity in one of his hands that was noticeable to everyone. The Pharisees know it and ask Jesus if it lawful to heal on the Sabbath.

Now, this is the “I need to meet with you” statement for me. The Pharisees are ill intentioned, and so they ask Jesus if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Their beady, self righteous glares are designed to make Jesus feel uncomfortable. Doesn’t he know that he will be departing with established religious traditions? Doesn’t he know that he will be trampling underfoot years of careful scrutiny? Doesn’t he know that there is a danger he will be circumventing his father’s law? The Pharisees look condescendingly at Jesus. A little smugness, I suspect, sneaks into their posture. They dare him to challenge them. At this point, I freely admit, I would have been paralyzed with fear. My courage would have withered. Face with so much disapproval, my own response would be to say something humorous to diffuse the tension and then look for the nearest exit. After making a couple of statements that would set the pahrisees to thinking (verses 11-12), Jesus calls the man with the withered hand to hold it out (see verse 13), which he does and it is healed.

In the presence of possible disapproval, Jesus did what was right. He did not cave to pressure. He did not turn and run. He did not go and hide. He did not refuse to do good because he feared the disapproval of others. He healed despite the pressure to do otherwise. With all his detractors standing there, Jesus does the right thing.

I have to tell you, this story amazes me. It humbles me. It encourages me. It challenges me.

So if you have ever struggled with approval addiction, why not pray with me today…

God, help me to love you more then I love myself. Give me the grace I need to move towards people, whatever their issues. Guard my heart with truth, protect my mind with peace and lead me in the path – to the situations – where you can show yourself mighty through me. Teach me to love you supremely. Teach me through the example of Jesus, and by your Spirit change me.

In His name


1 thought on “A Pastoral Admission

  1. I think that to few of us want to admit that we want the approval of others. It is easy to brush it off and say that we do not care what others think of us, but more people care that will admit it.
    Great thoughts, Herb. We really do need to care less about others approval and just do what Christ has called us to do.

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