You Can't Please Everyone

File this one under, “You can’t please everyone.” President Obama was being interviewed by CNBC when a pesky fly started buzzing around him. He swatted at it a couple of times, but it persisted on interrupting the interview. Finally, the President reached up and smacked it dead. It was a Kung Fu moment (“When you can take the pebble from hand, Grasshopper…”). I think it was rather impressive-- I just hope Iran and North Korea were paying attention.

Well, faster than you can say “animal activist,” there was a statement from PETA decrying the president’s obvious lack of sensitivity. Among other things, PETA said, "We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals. We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals." They also sent the president a “Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher” that allows one to trap a house fly and then release it outside. So we’re supposed to practice catch-and-release on flies. Shooting Alaskan wolves from helicopters is inhumane. The kid torturing cats in Florida is inhumane. But swatting flies?

You can’t please all the people all the time. And you can’t please some of the people any of the time. It seems that every time we do anything at church, there is someone who is not pleased. When we do something just a little bit differently, some people aren’t pleased. But go awhile doing things exactly the same, and other people aren’t pleased. The line from the old Ricky Nelson song “Garden Party” comes to mind, “You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself!

I understand the sentiment. Get enough complaint and criticism, and you just want sing right along, “You can’t please everyone…” God wants us to sing a different tune. No everyone is at the same place in the walk with God. No everyone understands everything the same. There are people Paul calls “the weak” who need to be taught, but in the meantime need to be pleased. Paul says this in Romans 15:1-3

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

No, we can’t please everyone. But that doesn’t mean we give up trying and just please ourselves. That’s not what God did, and that’s not what God wants us to do. Sometimes we have to bear with the weak. Now, the word for weak is the word incapable or powerless; it is often used to mean impossible—see Matt 19:21, Mark 10:27, Heb 6:4). So when Paul talks about the weak, he is talking about those who are incapable of understanding, those of whom more mature response is impossible. He’s not talking about someone who knows better but refuses to act better. And even cantankerous critics need a break every once in awhile.

Nope, we can’t please everyone. But we don’t therefore just please ourselves; we seek to please God.