There is something deep inside the human heart that longs to be accepted/approved of by another. I remember in high school drug-free programs would come to the school and speak of peer pressure. Although I was in a public high school and definitely not part of the in-crowd, I never felt 'pressured.' I was comfortable being me. Sometimes very lonely, but not enough to make me be someone I wasn't. Then I went to the University of Alabama, and discovered my first 'peer pressure.' I found in myself a deep desire to be accepted/approved of by the professors in my area of study. They were intelligent, fascinating people. Some of those 'fools' who say in their heart that there is no God- but they seemed so not 'foolish.' Because I'm a nerd, they offered me a sweet graduate studies package. I wouldn't have to teach undergrad classes or do research for some professor. I was even going to be given a stipend - basically, they were going to pay me to study there. And then the shoe fell. "Oh, you're married? Well, you'll have to put all that on the back burner. If you join this graduate studies department, you're married to the program." I discovered in that meeting how much these female professors disliked men, how liberal their agenda was, how strongly our worldviews were in opposition. Of course, I knew most of it already, but I was still quite devastated.
What to do? What to do? Nathan and I prayed about it, and it wasn't to be. I didn't know how to break the news to these people who were bending over backward for me. I walked into Professor X's office, and the answer came. God placed in my heart an image strong enough to convince me and them, too. I said, "If you knew that to advance in your studies you had to leave here and go study at Liberty University or Bob Jones, would you?" She was horrified! "No! I just couldn't! I'd be like a square peg in a round hole." I softly said, "That's what you're asking me to do." The pressure lifted. She kindly escorted me from the room, apologized for not understanding, and off I went. I cried.
Is it WRONG to want someone else to like us? Approve of us? Think we're worth spending time with? James says if we are a friend to the world, we will be an enemy of God. In fact the word for friend here is stronger, almost like 'lover.' But I'll just stay in the friend department for the moment. A friend is someone we care about. We care what they think about us. We want to spend time with them. We have shared values. We think alike about enough things to enjoy each other's company.
Many a Christian has the attitude of "OK, now give me a list of what I need to do to get to heaven. I don't want to be too weird, so I want to do everything I'm allowed to do, so I can still 'fit in' down here. You don't want to be so heavenly-minded, you're no earthly good." Wait. Aren't we supposed to be FRIENDS OF GOD? Isn't His opinion supposed to drive ours? Isn't time with Him the best time of the day? Aren't our values lined up next to His in Scripture? Don't we think alike? When we read His word, don't we say, "Yes, yes, and amen!"? (Just typing this is so convicting to my own heart- that happens sometimes ;o)
The desire to be approved of by another is a good thing. But anytime we look to someone other than God Himself for that approval, the desire will take us down. I'm not saying, "Well, I don't give a flip what anyone thinks about me. They can get over it." There is a wise discretion that will guide us to be gentle lovers of God AND lovers of those around us. Normally that sentence is blasted from the mouth of a person who has, shall we say, some maturation process in their future. That being said, how much DO I care about what the world thinks of me? What my extended family thinks of me? My neighbors? My friends from high school?
So we're really different. So we're supposed to be. When I'm the only woman in the store who's not flashing skin, when Nathan is sitting in a hotel room studying Hebrews while his coworkers hit the bar, when those moments come that shout, "YOU ARE SO WEIRD!," that's when I must ask myself, "Who do I love? Whose friend am I?" The Bible never said, "Go be relevant, (meaning enough like the world so they will listen to you)." It does say, "Love not the world." and "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul and your neighbor as yourself."