It’s wise to understand, accept and even anticipate the reality of human nature to excel in life. Human beings vacillate! The same people who sing your praises and cheer you as their saviour one week are equally capable of asking for your blood another week. The second chapter of John’s Gospel finishes with this sentence: “But Jesus didn’t trust them (the throng that believed in Him because of the signs He performed) because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for He knew what was in each person’s heart”[John 2:24-25 NLT]. That verse highlights that Jesus didn’t get carried away by the acclaim of men. It was never Jesus’s goal to accumulate fans, and He said as much when He explained His authority and motivation to the Jewish leaders [John 5:16-20].
Sometimes, there’s a temptation to keep people at arm’s length to avoid the pain of disappointment when they invariably let us down. However, Jesus didn’t insulate Himself from the wavering of men. He knew that His closest friends would abandon Him in His hour of need, but He loved them perfectly regardless [John 16:32]. Jesus chose to be vulnerable to disappointment and rejection from his closest friends, but wisely He didn’t put His faith in them. Christians must also strike a similar balance because we cannot love our neighbours from a distance. I find that incredibly difficult because I often keep those I don’t trust at arm’s length. Nonetheless, how can I minister to those in need if I don’t get close enough or let them get close enough to me? If Jesus could wash Judas’s feet knowing that Judas would betray Him in a few hours, what excuse do we have?
Jesus demonstrated through His life that we must focus solely on pleasing God by doing His will if we want to be like Him. So, If emulating Jesus wins you the applause of men, acknowledge it; but don’t become enamoured by it because they may change their minds tomorrow. If they persecute you, that’s not unexpected either [John 15:20, 1 Peter 2:18-23]. However, in both cases, the God to whom you remain faithful will reward you [Revelation 22:12]. With a Christ-like mindset, human nature ceases to impede a believer in serving the purposes of God. You can extend mercy and compassion when others disappoint you without being derailed from your destiny because you’re running the race set before you with your eyes firmly on Jesus [Hebrews 12:1-2]. If others come alongside to help you, then you can gratefully let them assist you with your cross without losing sight of your election and calling because you’ve set your face like a flint [Isaiah 50:7, 2 Peter 1:3-11].
Let’s pivot away from how Jesus dealt with people and reflect on the events of the last week of His earthly ministry. We may imagine we would have acted differently at the trial of Jesus had we witnessed Him ride on a donkey through the streets of Jerusalem. Maybe you would have, but have you assessed your trustworthiness recently? Can those closest to you trust your words? The New Testament lays out the expectations of a believer in the area of character in several passages like Ephesians 4-5 and Romans 12-14. But I would like to focus on integrity as it pertains to our tongues. Let’s assume you could envisage yourself in the crowd shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” one week and then: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” a few days later, has anything changed now that you’re a believer? Can those closest to you take you at your word, trusting that you won’t change your tune because of the vicissitudes of life?
Our world is full of famous people and institutions who say whatever earns the highest ratings and garners the most following, irrespective of their personal beliefs or integrity. Nowadays, being a hypocrite is considered politically expedient. Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be great if Christians were renowned for their character and integrity? In his letter to the Church in Philippi, Paul encouraged fellow believers to focus on being truthful, honourable, just, pure, lovely and commendable in an excellent and praise-worthy manner [Philippians 4:8]. These attributes were missing in the crowd when they called for Jesus’s crucifixion, even though some cheered Him as their Messiah a few days earlier. Paul’s letter called believers to behave differently from the surrounding culture, and that invitation still stands for anyone who claims to believe in Jesus.
It’s easy to read this and think of someone else. But even as I write, it’s a wake-up call for me to examine my life. The Bible never excuses hypocrisy or wavering in a Christian. On the contrary, Jesus insists that our word must mean something [Matthew 5:37]. So, it matters that people can trust our word. It matters that we doggedly stand with those unjustly persecuted. It matters that we can think for ourselves and go against the majority if they aren’t on God’s side. These are all marks of a Christian’s integrity. Picture yourself among the crowd on that fateful day as the Jewish leaders schemed to get the Romans to crucify Jesus. What would you have said? How would you have responded?
I’m not the best at stewarding my tongue, but I’m increasingly aware that growth in this area is imperative for my Christian walk [James 3:3-12]. Not only is it wrong for the same mouth to curse, bless, deceive and disabuse, but our words also reveal what’s in our heart, especially in challenging situations [Matthew 12:33-35]. My advice? Stand for something [Micah 6:8]. However, consider your positions thoroughly, ensuring they align with the principles in God’s word, and don’t be swayed by public opinion or peer pressure [1 Peter 3:10-12].