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Please like and subscribe.” This is the ubiquitous catch-phrase found in every YouTube video. Then there is the tongue in cheek response by stand-up comic Jocelyn Chia when she said “Honestly, if Interpol did something about this request and things escalated, can you imagine how famous it is going to make me?”[1]

Why is it that we want to be liked? Why do we want to be popular? Do we (secretly) want to be famous?[2]

Is this urge to be liked restricted to “likable/nice” people? Or so that nice people like us? However, history proves otherwise, for even Hitler had his own “gang” and was “liked” by the Nazi party/people who voted him in.

Is it wrong to be popular? Popularity in a sense, seems to be a natural progression in society. For example, if someone is exceptionally good at what they do, has a special skill, has some distinctive personality or can draw the crowd – just as cream rises to the top, this “naturally gifted” person becomes popular.

I don’t know the answers. All I know is that it is better to be liked then to be disliked.

However, there are some pitfalls in becoming famous or popular or being “liked.” Jesus was very aware of some of the pitfalls of popularity.

First, popular people will make enemies. Although Jesus was a good man, there was no shortage of enemies. The religious leaders just hated him and wanted Him dead. They were envious of him. If there are people who “like” you, then beware there are people who also “dislike” you.

Secondly, people’s perceptions can just change overnight. In Matthew 21, the crowd were idolising Him and shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest” as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Then a few chapters later in Matthew 27 at Jesus’ trial the crowd rose up against Him and shouted “Crucify him!”. Popularity seems dangerous, uncertain and is like a swinging yo-yo.  One minute you are up, the next you are down.

Thirdly, people liked Jesus to meet their own selfish needs and wants, for instance when Jesus multiplied the bread and fish and fed the multitudes, the people were more interested in the bread and having their fill then in Jesus’ real message[3]. People liked Him for all the wrong reasons. (Now doesn’t that sound familiar)?.

How did Jesus deal with popularity? Being “Liked” and then “Disliked”? Being misunderstood? Yet in all this He did not waver. Neither was He swayed by public opinion nor did He need validation from people. How did He manage that?

I think the answer lies in the temptation of Jesus by the devil in the wilderness immediately after His baptism. Henri Nouwen in his book “Here and Now, living in the Spirit” at page 138 explains succinctly;

“…Jesus resisted these temptations of success, popularity, and power by claiming strongly for himself his true identity. Jesus didn’t have to prove to the world that he was worthy of love. He already was the “Beloved” and this belovedness allowed him to live free from the manipulative games of the world….”

The panacea from wanting to be “liked” and to seek validation from other people seems to rest on the three responses of Jesus, which are:-

  1. Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God – Matthew 4:4
  2. Do not put the Lord your God to the test: Matt 4:7
  3. Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only Matt 4:10.

In a nutshell, Jesus whole self-esteem was based on the Rock of God’s standard rather than the shifting sands of popular opinion. He just obeyed God and served Him only. Do not put the Lord to the test. God does not need to prove Himself to anyone. Sometimes in this life, we too need not prove ourselves to anyone.

There are days we may feel like Zacchaeus (well, I do), a small man ostracised, ignored and misunderstood. It is at times like these that we need to humble ourselves, climb a tree away from the crowd. And to see Jesus reach out and look up at us and to hear Him say “… come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”[4] Coming down and welcoming Jesus into our lives is the first of many steps towards coming to terms and liking ourselves.

Please like and subscribe to God (and yourself).

[1] Interpol search will make me even more famous says Jocelyn Chia by R Sekaran, in the Star 15 Jun 2023

[2] Popular means other people like you. To be famous means one is well known, other people know who you are . In this article “popular” and “famous” is used interchangeably.

[3] John 6:26

[4] Luke 19:5 – 6

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