Am I now seeking human approval or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul’s words here are linked to his God-given authority as an apostle, the apostle to the gentiles, and the messenger of the gospel given to him. But what he is saying I take as connected to us since he tells us elsewhere to follow him as he follows Christ.
To dig deeper will bring up complexity, but on the face of it, the obvious answer to the question is no. We should not want to be liked by everyone. I’m not sure that all of us are to become all things to all people that we might win some which is what Paul said about himself. But in a secondary sense, yes, we do make ourselves a slave to all to win as many as possible in how we conduct ourselves in love to others in the world, including our enemies.
Jesus is Jesus and we have to be careful to thinking that there’s necessary direct application of everything he did for our practice. For example, Jesus evidently could see into people’s hearts in a way we can’t along with other examples. Jesus is God in the flesh, fully human, but even if living only as a human in his earthly existence, Jesus did so in a completely full way toward the Father, unlike us.
That said, I believe Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple precinct during Holy Week is an example for us to follow of not passive resistance to injustice, but active (helpful podcast with Jason Porterfield). Was Jesus making friends and influencing people when he did that? That was a part of the reason he was crucified. On Tuesday of Holy Week pronouncing woes of warning and sorrow to the Pharisees and not mincing words certainly wasn’t going to make those who already disliked him among the Pharisees change their minds. And possibly added a few more to that list.
We all like to like others and be liked. And someday when God’s love is the atmosphere in which all live and breathe, that will indeed be the case. But now in this darkness it’s inevitable that some will dislike us. Which could result even in death and for some does. Even though some seemingly do that dispassionately in the name of their religion or ideology.
At any rate, we as followers of Christ should work at loving everyone, even if we have to say something along the way which might be hard for them to hear or receive. We want to do everything in love, in love for God and for others. We need to learn to look past other’s faults and affronts against us and see the good, God’s image in them, and seek to love, even like them. That is an ongoing challenge in itself, but part of our calling. But for now, we can cast aside any thought that everyone is going to like us. In fact, given everything in this evil age, we really would not want that to be the case.
God will help us in this, and that together. In and through Jesus.