by Whit and Irma Sasser
Sentry Magazine, June 2001
We read the following from I Corinthians 4:3-4, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet l am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord."
Gleaned from both of his New Testament epistles to the Corinthians, we see that Paul often had to defend his apostleship, explain his motives in not having come to them sooner, argue his right to forego marriage and/or to be paid for his services, challenge the accusation that he behaved differently in person than his writings reflected, and all this to his brethren! So, what else is new? The very same kind of thing continues to this day.
But notice that Paul said that it really didn't bother him much what brethren thought of him, even if some actually judged him one way or another. And for that matter, he didn't even spend much time concerned with how he judged himself. He knew that there was nothing he had against himself (i.e. he lived in all good conscience) but in the end, it was only God's approval he had to have, for that was all that mattered. To that, I heartily say, "Amen!"
Paul cared how others viewed him. In II Corinthians 13.6-9, he expresses his desire that they do not view him negatively but then goes on to say how that having their approval at all costs was simply not possible. Mainly he wanted them to behave honorably and if in so doing he continued to be seen as weak, then so be it. Paul, as always, fully sacrificing himself for others. Longing for other's salvation, even at the expense of his own diminished self-image.
I, too, am concerned about my reputation among brethren and it bothers me greatly when I know someone disapproves of me or some decision I have made, but I have to seek to imitate Paul, even as he was imitating Christ. Paul considered it a small thing to him that others criticized him, passed judgment on his integrity, or upbraided him for decisions he made differently than they would have made. But that was also the same with our Lord. He was called names like "winebibber" and "friend of sinners" because of who he associated with, was criticized sometimes for his decisions (i.e. healing on the sabbath...why not just wait until the next day and no one would have a problem?) and accused of having lost his mind for getting so wrapped up in the things of God that He did not eat. But as the saying goes, "it all was like water off a duck's back." I am sure that Jesus was concerned as to what others thought of him ("Who do men say that I am?" He asked on one occasion) but ultimately it mattered very little, it seems.
So whether it be the Greatest Example, Jesus, or His noble follower, Paul, I have two great role models along these lines. They both say that in the final analysis, what I most need to be concerned about is not what the world thinks of me, nor my brethren, and not even myself, but what the Lord thinks. As Paul says in a certain place, "For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends" (II Corinthians 10:18). And in another place, "Study to show yourself approved unto God" (II Timothy 2:15). And so I shall.