The desire to be liked and approved of is a mark of our humanity. Early in our social development we seek ways of winning the approval of our parents and then our peers. Popularity is something to be won. For boys, the path begins with the strongest, for girls the prettiest. We soon move past these to more sophisticated superlatives like wit and style. Those that lag behind attempt humor or poor behavior to gain the notice of those who distribute the praise. A small taste of acknowledgment leaves the individual hungering for more. Unfortunately this pattern does not stop in adolescence. The college years see more jockeying for position as the purist for academic position leads some students to stop at nothing to one up or outdo classmates. In the corporate world the competition intensifies as career success now marks one’s approval. Climbing the ladder of success means leaving others behind while seeking the praise of those on the rung just above you. The sad part of this cycle is that hardly anyone stops and asks why, why does any of this matter? Instead of seeing people as individuals most folks simply respond to the social cues around them and go with the flow less their status diminishes.
For most people, position matters. What their peers think of them is important. That is why organizations like the Pew Research Center conducted a survey to determine popularity among religious groups. This survey of popularity is not measured in numbers of members but in how others view and accept their group. The findings are discussed in an article titled Americans Warm Up to Every Religious Group Except Evangelicals. The title is an attempt to paint the term “Evangelical” as a group losing favor in America as one part of the article points out those who actually know an evangelical dropped 9 points from 2014 to 2017. Pew used what it calls a “feeling thermometer” to survey 4,200 to determine how people feel about major religions in this country. What the survey does not seek to determine is who knows the difference in an Evangelical and a Catholic? Or a Mormon from a Hindu? What they believe and why they believe it is what really matters not how they make you feel. http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2017/february/americans-warm-feelings-religious-groups-evangelicals-pew.html
Just like we played those silly popularity games as kids they continue as adults. Preachers compare their Sunday School numbers to the church down the road just like business people compare spreadsheets against their competitors. However, when we start talking about how a religion makes us feel we are talking about an entirely different subject. God is not really concerned about how you feel toward Him, He wants to know if you know who He really is.
When talking to His disciples one day Jesus asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” There were the typical “feel good” answers, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah. Then Jesus changed the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:13-16)
Popularity is one thing but personal knowledge is the key. It does not really matter how someone or something makes you feel if you don’t have a personal relationship with them. Feelings can be influenced by the crowd, but relationships are individual. Is your faith based on the feelings of the crowd or a personal walk with the Savior?
Serving the Savior
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