I wasn't then, but I wanted to be. I'm still not, but I no longer care.
I was an ordinary kid. Not oooed- and ahhed-over by the girls. Not the teacher's pet. Didn't make straight As or have perfect attendance. I was skinny, freckle-faced, wore glasses, and came from a middle-class family with a preacher for a dad. Popularity simply wasn't in the mix, and being good didn't help.
In high school, I decided to try another route. If good didn't work, maybe bad would. So I did all the don'ts: cut school, drank, cursed, harassed teachers, and experimented with drugs — typical 'seventies hippie behaviour. But that didn't work either; it only brought trouble.
Jesus didn't have a popularity problem: "Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him." (Matthew 4:25 NIV) His popularity was so intense that He had to climb the mountain to escape.
But Jesus' didn't crave popularity at any cost. He preached the good news about His kingdom, news requiring followers to admit their sins, sacrifice their time, love the unlovable, give away money and possessions, and sometimes leave their family or lose their lives.
The difference between Jesus and me is that He didn't compromise His principles for popularity and short-lived acceptance. He stuck to His beliefs, even if it meant losing potential friends; and it did. When prospective followers heard the requirements, many chose another idol:
John 6:66 – From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (NIV)
The Bible's message is clear but unpopular: we're all sinners, and hell is our destiny. But God loves us, sent Jesus to pay for our sins, and offers forgiveness to all who ask.
I've discovered that following Jesus isn't always popular, and many won't accept me. But I can't straddle the fence. I'm either for Him or against Him; I accept His salve for my predicament, or trade it for potential esteem from others.
Acceptance from Jesus outweighs popularity with others. Sometimes we get both; often we don't. Which do you prefer?
Prayer: Merciful Father, when others' acceptance tempts us to disobey You, train our eyes on the eternal prize. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "We Gather Together" (Lyrics)