Much of God's covenant with Israel of old dealt with human relations. Various and sundry laws pointed out how the Jew was to conduct himself among his peers. One of these admonitions was, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" (Ex. 23:2). This was a very important decree; it showed the danger of peer pressure and pointed out very explicitly the dangers of being led astray by evil men. Peer pressure was an important factor in their lives; it has been from that time to the present. And perhaps as never before, peer pressure is an issue we have to wrestle with.
A leading educator noted that peer pressure is the strongest influence exerted on young people today. He stated that in most cases it is twice as strong as the influence of home and family, and yields a far greater influence than religion. I share this educator's convictions. All young people want to be accepted by their peers. And if to do so means disobeying parents and selling out personal convictions, some are willing to do so just to be a part of the bunch. In dealing with young folks and their problem of peer pressure, we often quote and expound on 1 Corinthians 15:33 -- "Evil companionships corrupt good morals." I contend this is a very important verse dealing with this subject. This admonition does caution against the dangers of peer pressure being exerted by those who are void of spiritual convictions and virtues. Let us continue to warn our young people of the dangers of their associates that rob them of their virtues.
But is all peer pressure centered in young people? Does this pressure cease when we become adults? Well, certainly at all stages of life there are peer pressures put on us by those with whom we mix and mingle day by day. The Bible is not silent on this matter. Men and women of God have always faced immense pressures in dealing with their peers. And when God has spoken, He has always done so with a stern warning against letting our associates rob us of our moral integrity.
One of the most striking examples of this occurred in the life of Peter. Peter is one of our favorite Bible characters. He was truly one of Christ's most ardent followers. We hear him saying, "Even if I must die with thee, yet I will not deny thee" (Matt. 26:25). We hear him declare, "Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and death" (Luke 22:33). But on that fateful night of the arrest and mock trial of the Lord, Peter "followed afar off" (Matt. 26:53); he stood with the wrong crowd, the enemies of the Lord (Matt. 26:69). And upon being asked of his allegiance to Christ, he cursed, swore, and denied that he even knew Him (Matt. 26:69-74). Peter, when alone in a crowd of unbelievers who were the enemies of Christ, relented to peer pressure.
What a lesson for the Christian today. I contend that when we are alone, with the wrong crowd, those with no regard for the Lord nor spiritual values, we are at the most vulnerable moment of our spiritual life. And so often, like Peter, the pressures from our peers lead to our downfall.
There are numerous other examples in the New Testament on this subject. Peer pressure played a leading role in the rejection of Christ by the rulers of the synagogue (John 12:42, 43). The Scriptures tell us they believed on Him, "but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God."
Likewise, peer pressure was the deciding factor in the heinous crime of Herod (Matt. 14:1-12; Mark 6:23). Herod feared and respected John, but his oath, along with "them that sat at meat with him" (his peers) prevented him from backing down on his promise, and resulted in the vile deed of having John the Baptist put to death. In this we see the influence and power of wicked men and the insidiousness of peer pressure.
But there is another side of the coin of peer pressure. Not all the characters of the Bible collapsed under the pressure of their associates. Many stood, often alone, in the face of severe pressures put on them by others.
Let us ever be aware of the immense pressures put on us by our peers, especially those with no regard for God and spiritual values. And let us profit from the mistakes others made and redouble our efforts to not yield to these peer pressures as they did.
What To Do When Listening To
It is not just the teacher or preacher who has an important responsibility when God's word is taught, each listener does also. Whether you are listening to a religious teacher in person, on the television, or over the radio, you have some serious obligations.
Listen with a searching attitude. The Bereans in Acts 17:11 serve as a great model as to the kind of listeners we all should be. When they heard Paul preach, the Bible says, "they received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." They were eager and open-minded. They believed the Scriptures to be from God and they examined them to see if Paul's message was in harmony with it. They were not lazy listeners, but active ones. It is possible their search took place even outside the time of the synagogue assembly. Like them, we should search the Bible carefully as we examine what we hear. The public message should even prompt us to continue to study the Scriptures on our own.
Test what you are hearing. The Bereans did not assume Paul's message was from God. They proved it with the Scriptures. Neither should we take the word of a religious teacher without first testing it. 1 John 4:1 teaches us to do this and why - "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." False teachers have always existed. The way to separate the false teachers from the true ones is to test their message with the Bible. Galatians 1:8 teaches, "But if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." Don't be deceived by external kindness (Matthew 7:15). Test the message always with God's word.
Listen with a willingness to do. There are some who listen to God's word and appreciate hearing it. Yet, the word has no impact on their lives. To them, listening to the teaching of the Bible is like a sector sport in which they find some amusement. Yet, no change is made to align their lives with what is taught. James 1:22 teaches, "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." The word of God is a living message (Hebrews 4:12). It is not merely a philosophy to intellectually embrace. It is a life-changing message that is to invade every facet of a person's life. Your marriage, family, and job are to be governed by it (Ephesians 5:22-6:9).
The next time you hear religious teaching, remember your responsibilities. Your response to Christ's word will determine your eternal destiny (John 12:47-48).
Know Your Bible" is e-mailed weekly by the church of Christ which meets at 112 Roberts Avenue in Wise, Virginia. If you know of others who might benefit from the articles contained in this bulletin, we would be glad to have you submit their e-mail addresses and we will include them in next week's mailing. If you are receiving this bulletin and do not wish to continue to do so, please e-mail us with your desire to be removed from the mailing list and we will remove your address promptly. Continue to the bottom of this page and further instructions will be given as to how you may contact us.
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