The Bible’s View
Should You Be Concerned About How Others View You?
GENUINE Christians have a responsibility before God and men to prove themselves to be ‘without blemish amid a crooked and twisted generation of people.’ In a world alienated from God, loyal disciples of Jesus Christ are to shine as illuminators. (Phil. 2:15) By their exemplary daily conduct and their eagerness to make known God’s truth, they serve as lights in a world that is in great spiritual darkness.
Rightly, then, the Christian should be concerned about the example that he is setting in his daily life. As far as it depends on him, he should not be giving anyone a valid basis for viewing him as a person who violates moral laws or who acts contrary to the natural sense of propriety. The apostle Peter admonished fellow believers: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody in other people’s matters.” (1 Pet. 4:15) As should be true of men appointed as elders, all Christians should strive to have “a fine testimony from people on the outside.”—1 Tim. 3:7.
It is also vital that the servant of God take into consideration the conscientious feelings or scruples of the people among whom he is living. In some areas, for example, a person who drinks alcoholic beverages, even in moderation, or who eats certain kinds of food may be viewed as a sinner. When that is the case, the Christian would not insist on his right to drink a little wine or to eat pork or other meats that his neighbors might regard as defiling. Rather, he would make it his determination to forgo his rights so as not to put an unnecessary stumbling block before persons who might be responsive to the “good news.”
A person would want to act in harmony with the fine example of the apostle Paul, who could say with reference to himself: “Though I am free from all persons, I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons. And so to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, that I might gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law.” (1 Cor. 9:19-21) “We have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning, neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 4:2) Like Paul, true Christians today have good reason to be concerned that their speech and actions appeal to the good conscience of observers.
However, there is no reason for a loyal disciple of Jesus Christ to be concerned when worldlings look down on him for being a Christian. He may be ridiculed and subjected to physical mistreatment on account of his faith. When that is the case, he wisely follows the inspired counsel: “If he suffers as a Christian, let him not feel shame, but let him keep on glorifying God in this name.” (1 Pet. 4:16) It is really an honor to suffer in behalf of Christ. His authority is far greater than that of any man or any group of men. Jehovah God gave to his Son ‘all authority in heaven and on the earth.’ (Matt. 28:18) Moreover, Jesus Christ, in proof of his great love, gave up his life in sacrifice, making it possible for his disciples to gain a clean standing before the Creator and thus to be put on the way that leads to everlasting life. (John 3:16; 15:13) Considering Christ’s great authority and the depth of his love for us, we certainly have no reason to be ashamed about suffering for his name.
Moreover, the genuine Christian does not have to be concerned as to how unspiritual persons inside and outside the Christian congregation may assess him. The apostle Peter stressed this in the following words: “For this purpose the good news was declared also to the [spiritually] dead, that they might be judged as to the flesh from the standpoint of men but might live as to the spirit from the standpoint of God.” (1 Pet. 4:6) While those who accept the “good news” come to life from a spiritual standpoint, unspiritual persons may continue to make their evaluations of such ones on the basis of fleshly considerations, judging those who lack worldly influence, power, position and possessions as mere nobodies. This should not trouble us. The more important thing is God’s judgment of us. We want him to regard us as living truly spiritual lives.
There simply is no way to please faultfinders. That is why the conscientious Christian does not need to trouble himself about his being compared unfavorably with others. The Christian apostle Paul was subjected to such unfavorable comparisons by certain members of the congregation at Corinth. His response to such a wrongful assessment of him can be encouraging to us. He wrote: “To me it is a very trivial matter that I should be examined by you or by a human tribunal. Even I do not examine myself. For I am not conscious of anything against myself. Yet by this I am not proved righteous, but he that examines me is Jehovah. Hence do not judge anything before the due time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring the secret things of darkness to light and make the counsels of the hearts manifest, and then each one will have his praise come to him from God.”—1 Cor. 4:3-5.
Certainly the apostle Paul knew his reasons and motivations for speaking and acting, better than did those who presumed to examine him or to assess his worth. He conscientiously acted in accord with Christ’s example and teaching. That is why he regarded such an examination as a “very trivial matter,” something that deserved no serious consideration. The apostle Paul realized that the assessment that would be made by the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s appointed judge did matter. Similarly, Christians today need to keep in mind the seriousness of being examined by Jehovah God through the Son. This can help them to avoid becoming disturbed about the assessments of unspiritual persons and to shun making such unspiritual judgments themselves.
Thus the Scriptures make it clear that there are times for being concerned about how others may view us and also times when we should not become concerned over what others may think or say. Our chief concern at all times should be in proving ourselves unblemished before our God by preserving a clean conscience before him and fellow humans. However, we should treat groundless faultfinding, ridicule or unspiritual judgments as amounting to nothing, as we continue to conduct all our affairs in a manner that will bring glory to God and to our Lord Jesus Christ.