An Audience of One

A recent sermon on Luke 20:1-9 held an unexpected message. Jesus had been teaching the people in the temple courts when the religious leaders challenged his authority. The sermon focused not on Jesus’s response to the chief priests and teachers of the law but on why these leaders responded to Jesus as they did.

“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”

He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”

So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

The religious leaders did not answer Jesus honestly. They crafted their response to the crowd. If they had questioned John the Baptist’s authority, the people would have been angry.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

William Shakespeare

The response of the religious leaders reminds me of today’s politicians who say one thing among themselves but say the opposite to the public. Politicians constantly play to their audience, sometimes to an audience of one.

The pastor said we all make this mistake. I have to admit that I am guilty of this. We pay too much attention to what the crowd thinks of us. We practice “impression management,” trying to maintain a desired image of ourselves. Perhaps we act as if we have all the answers. We share the most attractive pictures of ourselves. We share our successes and not our failures.

Nowhere is impression management more evident than on social media, a stage where people perform in a socially acceptable way. Social media does not make you a truer version of yourself and it won’t make you happier. Social media often makes people feel inadequate compared to friends who seem to have it all.

The lesson is to make God your audience. When you live your life with God as your audience, you are free to be the real you. He sees both the best and worst versions of us and still loves us unconditionally.

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Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash