Everyone, be it a pastor of an evangelical church in Dubai or a dean of a university in Europe, has this innate desire to be recognized, applauded, and mentioned for something they either excel in or are fond of. This is a natural part of our humanity, and can even be beneficial both to ourselves and more importantly, God and others. However, it can also cause us harm and to those around us. And to make matters worse, this desire to be known does not know how to be satisfied.
This desire to be seen and known can be traced back to our childhood, when we learned how to get our parents’ attention. As we grow older, we look for attention from our friends, colleagues, subordinates, higher-ups, and even strangers. We want recognition, awards, followers, and applause; the more we receive these things, the more we want them. It’s an appetite that can never be satisfied.
Without the proper viewpoint, this problem can become so big that it can be a detriment to people’s lives. Thankfully, there is always someone we can look up to as an example when it comes to handling fame and influence. His name is John the Baptist.
The Renowned Baptist
Perhaps there is no baptizer more renowned than John the Baptist. During his time, people baptized themselves. So when he began his ministry of baptism, it was seen as radical and ahead of its time, as the idea of a person baptizing another was unheard of. In addition, what John was doing was considered a big deal not just because of its novel and seemingly controversial nature, but also because of the great number of followers he has. A reading from Mark backs it up:
“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” – Mark 1:5
While the statement seemed minor and definitely not meant to be taken literally, it is important, as it signifies the commitment of his followers to him. This is because during those times, if you are to come from Jerusalem and the Judean countryside, it would take you three whole days just to get to Jordan River. To his followers, that definitely meant a lot of dedication!
And because of his greatness and the great number and loyalty of those who listened to him, a lot of people thought John the Baptist was either a prophet like Elijah or the Messiah. But when asked who he is, he told them that he’s neither. He knew he could but he didn’t, for he knew the truth that someone greater was coming: Jesus Christ, and he knew that his role and the reason behind his renown was so that he can point all of his followers to the Messiah.
Become Greater, Become Less
Upon Jesus’ arrival, John began telling his followers to “unfollow” him and heed Christ instead. Of course it wasn’t easy, but he knew that it’s what’s supposed to be done and it didn’t bother him. However, his closest followers did.
Jesus did the same thing John did, which was baptizing people, and his followers thought it was a bad thing and told him about it. In response, John told them that a person can only receive what was given to him by heaven (John 3:28). John knew that what he has received – his renown, influence, and followers – were all just given to him by God. He knew that he was merely a steward of all those things , and that what matters is that he was able to fulfill his life mission: to bring the people who once followed him to the one they should follow all their lives.
With John as our example, we should realize that becoming known shouldn’t be something we should strive for. Instead, we should do what God told us to do, and whether we become known for it or otherwise, what’s important is the recognition and accolade we get from heaven.