Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not original enough. Too contrived. Too air-brushed. Too personal. Too conservative. Too liberal.
Like. Dislike. Love. Swipe and continue.
It's 7 am, I'm still in bed and I've already passed judgment on at least fifty people. I've looked at them, I've examined them, and I've found them wanting. Some are friends. Some are family. Some are people I've never met. Yet I've judged them, one and all. Through the power of the almighty swipe I've pounded down the gavel and dismissed them from my courtroom. But it's OK. I've got a full docket today. And as new photos and stories fill my feed I continually render judgment, deciding who is and who is not worthy of my time, and upon whom I will deign to reach down and bestow the power of the holy grail: The elusive LIKE. Many are called but the chosen are few, and if you want validation from me then you better wow me. Otherwise I'll simply reach down, and with a flick of the finger make my determination: Not good enough. Next.
We all crave it. We all seek it like crazy. Deeply-woven into the fabric of every human being is a desire to be appraised and valued by our peers. We want the approval of others, and we'll spend hours photo-shopping and curating our social media accounts to get it. We hit POST, and then we wait. How many people will read my article? How many will appreciate that clever turn of phrase? How many will LIKE my video? And when the number isn't quite as high as we'd hoped—what happens? When our Facebook approval rating plummets and our value as human beings drops proportionally, there's clearly a lot more at stake than we thought. What we thought was a game has turned into a sinister, insatiable quest for the approval of others. We must continually justify our existence and prove our worth as human beings.
This quest is exhausting. And when your identity and worth as a human being is tied up in the judgment of others—you're in deep, deep trouble. Because, however well-curated and photo-shopped your life may be, sooner or later someone is going to look at you, they'll swipe, and they'll move on. Verdict rendered. Approval lost. And as Paul Zahl says, nothing terrifies us more than an unfavorable verdict: “I am suggesting that the fear beneath all fears, which in turn creates the stress, depression, and anger of everyday life and human history, is the fear of judgment. This is to say, the fear of ultimate condemnation.”(1)
But what if there was another way? A way that didn't require the approval of others at all?
The Apostle Paul says this:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
This is bold. He’s saying that it’s literally impossible to please every human being. Not just hard. Not just difficult. Impossible. Completely and utterly impossible. And not only that, but it's impossible to seek the approval of God and human beings at the same time. You can't simultaneously be a people-pleaser and a God-pleaser. If you spend your life chasing after the holy grail of the LIKE and you sacrifice your blood, sweat, and tears to the god of human approval, then you're going to miss out on something important. Something key. Something astounding.
The only reason Paul can stake his claim so boldly is that he knows a truth the rest of us so often forget: The only approval we need—the only approval we've ever needed—we already have. In Christ Jesus, God appraises you and He finds you well-pleasing. And His verdict is ironclad: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
And this doesn't apply only when you behave, like when you happen to have a good day and you remember to make your wife a cup of coffee. Or when you don’t mouth off to your boss and didn't overindulge at the office party. No. God is now and always well-pleased with you on account of Christ. His approval is not conditioned upon how well-coiffed and perfectly-curated and morally-upright (or downright) your life happens to be in any given moment. God isn't looking down from Heaven with his binoculars, giving you a round of applause on your good days and booing through His megaphone on your bad days. His approval of you is unconditional, based not on your performance but upon the perfect performance of His Son. And you need to hear that. Nothing in the world could cause God's approval rating to drop. He rejoices over you. He can't stop smiling. He can't stop applauding. And He couldn't be prouder.
That is the power of a verdict. Most of us fear the word "judgment," imagining chains and prisons and anguish. But for the one declared innocent and free, there is no sweeter sound in the world than the dropping of the gavel.
"It is finished." Judgment has been rendered. The gavel has dropped.
And one day, my friends—soon, very soon—all swiping will cease. Lord haste the day!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to see how many people have LIKED this post.