“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in [Jesus], but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Peer pressure. As much as we’d like to say it’s not a real thing and pretend it doesn’t exist, we know that it is actually a very powerful force. Adults have a tendency to brush it off and say, “Oh, peer pressure is only something that affects children. I’m an adult now, and I don’t care what other people think of me.” I would venture to say that anyone who says that is either in denial or a liar. Peer pressure doesn’t go away when we get older; it is the same beast, but with just a different mask. To some degree, we all care about what other people think of us. We all have something in us that seeks after the praise of men.
Psychology even supports this claim. Studies have shown that we are creatures of conformity. We will tend to act or behave in a way that conforms to the group we are in. We will dress like them, eat like them, talk like them, and act like them. Why? Because if we don’t do what we see everyone else doing, we are concerned that they will think of us as “weird.” We don’t want to be different. We don’t want to be weird. We want to be normal. We want to fit in. So we live our entire lives striving to meet some self-imposed standard, some imagined expectation that we must fit in.
Now, peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing; in fact, sometimes it can be very good. It is not wrong to seek affirmation or approval from other people. But when that becomes our main focus, then we have lost the joy of living. Why do we seek so hard after the approval of other people? I think it is because we have lost sight of Whose approval really matters. You see, the Scripture passage from John 12 listed at the top of this article tells us that there were people in Jesus’ days who wanted to believe in Him and follow Him, but they were afraid of what would happen to them if they did. They cared more about what other people thought of them than what God thought of them. It is not wrong for us to love the “praise of men,” as the Scripture calls it; but when we love the praise of men more than the praise of God, then we have a serious problem. If we don’t live our lives to please God first, then we have just allowed peer pressure to take first place in our lives and actually become an idol.
The Lord tells us this in His Word: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). To conform means to adjust to one’s surroundings or to become like something. When we try to act a certain way just to get other people to like us or approve of us, we are conforming. But have we forgotten that we’re not supposed to look like the world? God’s Word has another option: Instead of being conformed, we are to be transformed. We are to be changed into the people God has created us to be! As Christians, we are not called to blend in. We are called to stand out—to be light in this dark world. If we keep acting like everyone around us, we are only adding darkness to darkness. It’s hard to be a light, but it’s the only thing that will make a difference in this dark world. So make this your challenge: Be light today. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Jesus dared to be different, and so should we. Seek God’s approval today.