So many warnings you have heard about peer pressure. “Don’t follow the crowd!” “If everyone else is doing it, that is no reason for you to do it.” Peer pressure you hear about in connection with drinking, smoking, and almost everything else that will get you into trouble. Peer pressure is the enemy. You must not cave into its demands.
What is peer pressure? Peer pressure is influence that you feel because of a group with whom you identify yourself. You tend to adopt their ways of thinking, speaking, and acting. That tendency is so strong, not only because those ways surround you, so that you are exposed to them, but also because you want to fit in with that group and you enjoy the favor of that group.
Peer pressure can have the effect of pushing one to do bad things. One may be so caught up in what the crowd around him is thinking and doing, that he finds himself saying and doing things that otherwise he would not. Peer pressure is something like alcohol. One does things because alcohol removes inhibitions, with the result that he does what he would certainly not do by himself. Equally true it is, however, that peer pressure appeals to your sinful nature. You have in yourself a desire to do what is wrong. Peer pressure gives you the excuse to do what otherwise you would not do because of the consequences. Know yourself!
Scripture gives plenty of warnings against peer pressure. Against the peer pressure of slander and being judgmental there is the warning ofExodus 23:2: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment.” Proverbs 1:15, 16 sharply warns against running with an evil crowd: “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.” Our calling is to take a firm stand against that kind of peer pressure. You must know that you are responsible for what you say and do. Your peers are not the cause of the sins that you commit, you are. Since peer pressure does have its effect in the battle against sin, you must resist that peer pressure. One of the first questions to ask yourself is whether or not you truly belong in this or that peer group if it becomes such a cause of trouble for you. It may be better to be alone than to run with a crowd that has a poor influence on you. But you must also ask yourself why you may be so weak as to cave in under pressure, forsaking what you know is right, to do something wrong.
There is, however, another side to peer pressure, a positive, proper side. Peer pressure can be a good gift of God. Not always is it evil. It can be one of the benefits of membership in, and reasons for, the church of Jesus Christ. It is one of the reasons why He has created relationships between you and your fellow young people. Your privilege is to help each other, putting a good pressure on each other to do what is pleasing to your God.
One of the greatest blessings of the covenant is that you are faced with two powerful incentives to keep yourself in the way of what is pleasing to God.
The first incentive I cannot label as “peer pressure.” I mention it because it is the foundation of all good peer pressure. I also mention it because it operates in the same way as peer pressure, except far more powerfully than you can imagine. One of the reasons I must mention it here is because of the wonderful truth of the covenant: God is your God, your sovereign Friend, who has in sheer grace made you His friend servant. He has defined to you what is good and pleasing before Him. In addition, He has given you the most powerful incentive to be good and pleasing before Him: His grace, which bears the blessed fruit of thankful consecration. You belong to Him by grace. Even further, He has supplied you with His Spirit, to enable and equip you to be pleasing before Him.
The first incentive to keep yourself in the way that is pleasing to God is that in it you are kept near to God. With this nearness to God you hear powerfully and clearly His word of approval. You know from His Word the way that is pleasing to Him. What a wonderful, powerful incentive you have in knowing that you have His approval when you walk in this way. So what if hundreds of millions of men oppose you? What is their disfavor compared to God’s favor? What delightful, powerful pressure to keep to His way and His truth!
The second incentive is that you are kept near to your fellow saints according to who they are and what they should be. Your place is to be a holy young person among other holy young people, and among a holy congregation. That holiness does not mean only that you have a place in the church, whether you refer to the church as the glorious body of Christ, or as the congregation of which you are a part. But your holiness means also that you are filled with the Holy Spirit, consecrated to the cause of God’s truth and righteousness. Therefore you have a proper place among your fellow saints who are also consecrated to the cause of God’s truth and holiness. Together you share the same covenant friendship of God, the same powerful incentive of gratitude, and the same Holy Spirit. This peer group is proper. “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:63).
The place you have in the church by God’s grace brings you to this good, positive, and healthy peer pressure.
Knit together in this fellowship, you are all facing the same direction and aiming at the same goal: the honor and glory of your God. You share the same desire of speaking the truth and doing righteousness, what is pleasing to God. Sharing that direction and that walk, together you enjoy the love and favor of God on your path. Walking in light, you are surrounded by light. What a blessing to enjoy that light in your gatherings, whether at society meetings or on outings, or meeting with each other at different occasions!
How can you turn from that good direction and look in another, to the world or to sin? Together you walk in the same way, according to the will of God, in all manner of good works. How can you break ranks to walk in a different path or to walk at a different pace? In that way you lose the pleasant company of your fellow saints. In that way you lose the consciousness of God’s favor and friendship. You then feel the kind of pressure that is a good peer pressure: Get back where you belong! Here is the kind of pressure that peer pressure ought to be.
You recognize, of course, that there are matters that belong to you individually. There is your own, inner, spiritual life. There is the life of the heart, bringing it out from its rebellious, depraved ways, bringing it under control, and directing it to the love of God and delight in His ways. But what a blessing to be surrounded by those you know to be engaged in the same task! Together you are able to share in your mutual, heartfelt delight in the things of God and His kingdom. In your worship you share the common love of God, and common commitment to His truth.
There are also your own unique circumstances. The Lord has given you your own, unique relationships with your parents, teachers, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. There are the events in your life that affect you in ways that affect no one else. Out of them there are the peculiar temptations that you face, the burdens that you alone bear. At the same time, you know that you are not alone. Other young people close to you may not share exactly the same circumstances, but they are all going through similar experiences. If you have good peer pressure with one another, you will be able to talk to each other about these matters so near to you. You will then find that you are not that different even in these close, individual matters. You will be able to encourage each other in your struggles. By that encouragement you will become more tightly joined together, supplying even more good peer pressure.
To maintain this good peer pressure you have two specific responsibilities. Your first responsibility is that you take heed to the young people near you. How you behave yourself, how you talk, how you dress—all these will influence them. You must behave in such a way that carries a good influence. That does not mean only that you are going to be careful to behave, dress, or talk in a way that resembles what everyone else does. It means that you are going to make choices consciously mindful of the influence that you must have on the whole for the betterment of the whole. Your calling is to apply peer pressure in a good direction. This way Scripture sets before you in Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”
Your second responsibility is to give yourself over to that good influence and peer pressure. You may be stronger in some areas, and able to give good influence and direction. In other areas you will be weaker. In those areas, let that pressure make you better. Let it motivate you to change.
These two ways Paul properly uses to direct the church at Corinth to a proper, heartfelt, abundant giving. Notice II Corinthians 9:2: “For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.” That is, Paul spoke to the churches of Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) of the zealous generosity of the church of Corinth, in Achaia, or Greece. He desired to provoke the churches of Macedonia into the same generous giving for the welfare of the saints at Jerusalem.
Peer pressure is a good, even a wonderful, gift of God. Do not abuse it! Use it for good—for your good, for the good of your fellow saints, for your strength of youth!