Actions are often the result of influence. We may be influenced by our parents not to pass notes during worship. Or, we may be influenced by our friends to wear particular clothing brands or styles. Likewise, we may be influenced by God — and our promise to be faithful to Him — to do certain things. But, the bottom line is still the same: actions are often a result of influence.

Many individuals call this “peer pressure,” a phrase that I’ve never fully understood because we can certainly be influenced by individuals not in our “peer” group. While it may not be technically correct, the concept is still a good one.

When we hear the words ‘peer pressure’, we almost automatically think of teenagers. In fact, teens hear the phrase and often cringe, rolling their eyes at the very sound of it, thinking: “Not another lesson on drugs or sex.” Most do not realize that peer pressure can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Without a doubt, peer pressure has found its way into the church. It often dictates fashion, songs, worship traditions, church programs, and even Bible class material. Sometimes this can result in good things —like spiritual or numerical growth. Other times, it can drive congregations away from their focus on God and spiritual matters.

Here is what I intend to teach my children about peer pressure.

Consider the following scenario: A solid Christian young person is asked to leave a gymnasium filled with his classmates. While he is out in the hallway a teacher instructs the rest of the students to answer a question incorrectly — on purpose — by standing up. The young man is invited back into the gym and the teacher begins teaching. Several minutes later she asks the class a question — to which the young man
obviously knows the correct answer.

But, he watches as the entire room stands up, supporting the wrong answer. After a few milliseconds of his mind wrestling with himself, and realizing that everyone else is standing, his muscles finally win over and the young man stands up. He does this even though he knows it is the incorrect answer! This, my children, is peer pressure. Scientifically speaking, it is very real and you will be wrestling with it much of your life.

It takes a strong individual to always stand up for what is right. There will be times in the future that you are negatively “pressured” to drink alcohol, participate in sexual activity, or watch immoral movies. I encourage you to decide right now exactly what you deem right in the sight of God, and determine how you will respond.

As Paul is encouraging the Christians in Ephesus, he urges them, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11). He then continues, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore…” (vs. 13ff). Do you notice how often he says “stand”? Does this sound like someone who would give in to negative peer pressure? Standing up for right is an important aspect of our Christian lives.

Think back to some of the Bible accounts we have studied. How often did we read about strong men and women who were willing to stand for that in which they believed?

For instance, David could have given into peer pressure on the battlefield against Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Queen Esther went before the King on behalf of the Jews knowing that she could lose her life (Esther 4-5). Or how about Moses, who “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:24-25)?

Likewise, we have strong pictures in the Bible of individuals who allowed peer pressure to lead them down the wrong path. Aaron was pressured into making a golden calf by the Israelites who had become impatient waiting for Moses (Exodus 32). Remember, peer pressure is real. Decide now how you will react.

I pray that you learn to stand. Your mom and I are doing our best to help you grow in wisdom and helping you learn how to discern good from bad. But ultimately, the choice will fall to you.

Consider what happened when God rehearsed the sins of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 22. After recounting all of the evil that was transpiring, He said, “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30).

My prayer is that you will always be ready and willing to stand in the gap!

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Brad Harrub’s new book “Heart of the Matter 2: A Second Helping of Letters to my Children”. You can pre-order the book here.