Long ago I read a sci-fi story about a world where appreciation was the currency, not money. Gold was plentiful, so people tried hard to be liked. I can’t remember much more about the story except that it ended badly. It’s not healthy for us to devote too much of our lives to the pursuit of popularity. At the time, I thought the sci-fi story was far fetched. How could you monetize appreciation? Guess what? I’m on Facebook and I need to be Liked, I have a blog and I track how my hits, and when I preach, I listen hoping to hear people say, “Good sermon, Bill.”
Jesus exampled a life in which one does the compassionate and true thing without expectation of being Liked. His teachings always form a reality check; “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you…” In Mark 6, he faces difficulty in Capernaum because people knew him as a child. He says, “a prophet is without honor…” This is normal, people are still the same. The way he responds is to move along to the next village.
A problem that afflicts many people today is codependence. This is the need to be needed. This is where we will do anything to be liked or to have people depend upon us. A codependent person becomes attuned to how what they are saying or doing is perceived by others, and adjusts, even when that adjustment drives both parties crazy. This is not compassion, it’s madness.
Jesus does something counterintuitive, he sends his disciples out without money, backpack, or safety net. This forces them to be dependent, not codependent. When they go into a well to do neighborhood, they are rejected because they look poor. They can’t make people like them. For all they meet, their message must be spoken with purity; one naked human soul to another. Class, popularity, what-I-can-do-for-you, means nothing to the Gospel.