Operating Standards

Rebecca Van Noord

Sometimes I operate on the premise that if I’m honoring God and following Him, I don’t have to be concerned with what other people think. But carrying this too far is just as faulty as basing my identity on the approval of others. One leads to foolish pride and independence, and the other results in idolatry.

Paul, upon receiving a generous gift from believers in Jerusalem, felt called to explain his actions to the Corinthian church. He was intentional about how he would accept the gift, “lest anyone should find fault with us in this abundant gift that is being administered by us” (2 Cor 8:20). He explains why he is so concerned: “For we are taking into consideration what is honorable not only before the Lord, but also before people” (2 Cor 8:21).

In his ministry, Paul considered how his actions would be interpreted by observers. Since he experienced opposition in the community, he wanted to communicate how he would receive the gift—to be above reproach. The gospel was primary, and he wanted to avoid accusations that would impede the message of salvation.

Daily, we face situations where we can be governed by others’ opinions. We also can offend them. When are we too vigilant? How do we keep from becoming a robot, motivated by other people’s desires instead of love for God? When do we challenge other people’s faith, instead of tiptoeing around them? Answering these questions takes incredible wisdom.

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul draws from Proverbs 3: “May loyal love and truth not forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them upon your heart. And you shall find favor and good sense in the eyes of God and humankind” (Prov 3:3–4). Acting out of love, with a foundation of truth, can help us learn to honor God and love people. Being human, we will not always carry this out successfully. But operating on both love and truth and seeking wisdom and guidance for every situation, we can trust God to work out those places where we fail.

When it comes to relationships, what is your basis for operation?

This article was originally published in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.