Two verses slapped me last week:
“Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43).
The context of these verses is this: Jesus was performing many, many signs, yet still people refused to believe in Him because they had hard hearts.
Still, some persevered beyond the faithless doubters and became believers. These were “rulers,” what we would call modern-day natural leaders. The implication of these verses is that merely believing Jesus is shortsighted; we must also confess Him, even before those who have the ability to cast us from society.
These rulers feared for the outside. They wallowed in the appearance of propriety. They listened to Jesus, watched His miracles, even let a slip of their hearts believe in Him. But they were ashamed of Him somehow. So concerned were they about the religious leaders, those who held sway over society, that they shrunk back.
So, yeah, it’s easy to point the finger at these leaders who loved man’s approval over Jesus’ smile. So easy. But I do the same thing. I fear. I worry what others think of me. I fret that I’ll be shunned for my love of Jesus. As I read this verse, I realized that all of us have synagogues–places we’ll be shut out from if we go full bore for Christ.
For some, the synagogue might be a social circle of friends. It could be the workplace. It might be family. Some live in paralyzing fear of ostracism. The magnetic pull of our “synagogue” makes us step over the line from longing for the applause of heaven to performing for the approval of others. It’s a slippery place to be.
My heart is that these haunting words won’t ring true of me. How I long to have it said, “She loved the approval of God rather than the approval of man.” What a blessed reversal that would be! And I wonder, what would happen to the “synagogues” if we became emancipated from their expectations and lived for Jesus wholly? What would happen to this world if we dared to abandon ourselves to the One who holds our reputations in His capable, loving hands?
What is your synagogue?