“Being popular is a dangerous thing.”
Honestly, I’ve always found it curious and more than a little disturbing that Christians celebrate so hardily Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem. As if we didn’t know how hollow, how fleeting, how painfully ironic this reception was.
We wave our palm fronds in the air as the service begins, and then continue fiddling with them as the Gospel message is read. Like we don't know what's coming. Or maybe it’s that we do know what’s coming, and it’s too uncomfortable to sit with.
Five days after being hailed as a King, the Rebel with a Cause would be betrayed and abandoned by his own, scorned, beaten, and prosecuted by the religious and political leaders of his region, and finally nailed to a cross for His efforts. The royal treatment indeed!
Popularity is a dangerous thing. It’s dangerous because it sets you up for envy. And hell hath no fury like people who are envious; people who hate you because of who you are and who they are. Popularity places a big bulls-eye right in the middle of your back. But this is not what you should spend time worrying about. Because the greatest damage is not caused by others, but by onesself.
Forget for a moment being hated for no good reason. What about being "loved" for no good reason?
In my practice I have worked with addictions of every kind, and I promise you nothing has the addictive, seductive power of popularity. How much of a hook is popularity for you? What have you compromised in order to be accepted and liked? What are you still willing to compromise? If pushed, everyone would deep down like to be popular. But at what cost?
In the end, we cannot control what people feel or think about us. However, we can control our addiction to what people feel or think about us, remaining focused on who we are and what we are called to do. And this starts by knowing what really matters, and what really doesn't.
Don't spend too much time looking at the crowd. They may love you today, and want to crucify you tomorrow. Keep your eyes on the real prize. That's the lesson of Palm Sunday.