Read 1 Corinthians 4:1-4
1 So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. 2 Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. 3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. 4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. (NLT)
Very few of us set out to be deliberately unpopular. Most of us want to be liked and accepted. We rightly value others’ opinions of us. We can’t live as if these don’t matter at all. In his letters, Paul expresses concern about how others think of him. He is disappointed when misunderstood and upset when opposed.
In this text, though, he puts things in perspective. What the Corinthians think of him matters but doesn’t matter most. He is not insensitive to their evaluation of him, but other things matter more. Indeed, he doesn’t even place the highest priority on his opinion of himself. We can be too harsh on ourselves or go too easy on ourselves. We can be puffed up or put ourselves down in the pit. Self-evaluation is far from infallible.
Ultimately, it is God’s opinion that counts. And we can trust him to be truthful and loving. This not only affects the way we view ourselves but others as well. Our evaluations of others are always tentative and conditional. We simply don’t know enough to make judgements.
So we give up the frustrating and energy-sapping task of trying to control how others think of us. So much of our time is spent on crafting an image that will cause others to think well of us. While we don’t go around deliberately antagonising people, nor do we make it our priority to have them join our fan club. What others think of us, what I think of myself, matters. But they don’t matter most.