It is impossible to please everyone, don’t you think? I know I do. So, should we even try? Paul wrote, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” (Romans 15:2)
I keep looking for a clause that would allow me to escape this command based on the quality of my neighbor, but there is none. I also find myself trying to do a little self-justification based on who exactly is my neighbor. If I can limit who my neighbor is, then I can limit the kind of people I seek to please. I can deem the folks who are easy to please as my neighbor and those who are not as my non-neighbor and pretty soon I am looking pretty good. This same logic was shot down by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus explains, in his shrewd way, that your neighbor is whomever you come into contact with which would include your family, friends, co-workers, classmates, strangers and the list could go on and does.
I don’t think we can get away from what Paul is meaning to say. We are to actively work to please others for their good. What would please others? What would be for their good? One way we can do this is to, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted [us]” (Romans 15:7) .
Accepting someone for who they are is huge. Too often we expect someone to be perfect. We would never say that out loud, but as soon as someone makes a mistake we are usually quick to point it out, if even in our own hearts. Take a minute and think about that. Who, in your life, are you quick to judge, condemn, punish, trash? What we are actually doing is rejecting our neighbor. Yet, the way Jesus has accepted us is by grace. His grace is extended to us through His death and likewise we must die to ourselves so that we might love others. Which means we no longer live to bring about our own pleasure, but we actively work to please others by doing them good. The key to failure then is trying to please ourselves above God and everyone else!
If that sounds like a good way to become miserable, it is not. Listen to what Paul writes next, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope as you trust in him...” (Romans 15:13)
Hope, joy, peace. How does that sound to you? We receive them as we trust God enough to live out His Word by actively working to please others by bringing about good in their lives. It may seem counterintuitive, but much of joyful living is!