Let’s think about three scenarios:
- A Christian teenager surrounded by young people who have little interest in living a moral life. Our teen feels as if she is the only one who is not enjoying sexual intimacy or taking drugs in her school.
- A young father of three is offered a promotion at his job. The extra money would be very useful. Like any father, he worries about feeding and sheltering his family. But the promotion will include some business practices that a Christian should not carry out. It is made clear to him that if he does not take the promotion, there are several colleagues who would jump at the chance.
- Elders who look at churches in the area that are apparently growing. It is suggested that all they need to do is to compromise their biblical convictions and they, too, will grow. (Church growth studies actually do not bear this out, but everybody’s an expert, you know).
Peer Pressure Is Not a New Thing.
The Israelites demanded to have a king “like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:4,5). King Saul defended bringing back the “best of the sheep and the oxen” by explaining that “the people” made him do it (1 Samuel 15:15). The apostle Peter shrank back from associating with Gentiles because of the censure he feared he would receive from certain visitors from Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11-13).
The World Is Not Benign
You might think that the world would be neutral about our Christian conviction, but it is not. The world cannot tolerate those who dare to take one step out of time with its ideals. The phrase “Do not be conformed” (Romans 12:2) indicates the heavy pressure we face from the world to conform to its baleful standards. J.B. Phillips memorably rendered it this way: “Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” The NEB says: “Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world.” Peter says that we are not “to be surprised” at the opposition of the world (1 Peter 4:12). Apparently, the world’s opposition had come as an ugly shock to Peter’s readers. It should not surprise us, however.
That’s Why God Established the Church
We often refer to the church building as a sanctuary. In history, fugitives have fled to a church building and sought sanctuary there. But in reality, the sanctuary for Christians is the church. This is where we can get the support network we don’t get “out there.” Paul is constantly urging his readers to do and say things that “build up” (“edify”) other Christians (Ephesians 4:29; 1 Corinthians 14:26).
It’s a tough world out there. There are people who are self-absorbed, harsh and angry. There is hatred all around. The church should be a safe place, where our words are thoughtful, loving and helpful to others.
Suck It Up, Cupcake!
Come on, guys, this Christian living is serious! You will do nothing of more consequence than being a Christian. It will not be popular with everybody. If you possess core principles, however, you will not allow the world’s censure to stop you living up to them. Get tough. “Lift up your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Hebrews 12:12). We need to “stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).