Read: Acts 5
THINK: There was a test conducted by a renowned university where 10 students were placed in a room. 3 lines of varying length were drawn on a card. The students were told to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the longest line. But 9 of the students had been instructed beforehand to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second longest line. 1 student was the stooge. The usual reaction of the stooge was to put his hand up, look around, and realizing he was all alone, pull it back down. This happened 75% of the time, with students from grade school through high school.
75% of the time. It’s a pretty shocking number, but I don’t doubt that it’s correct. As I take a look at my own life and, if I’m really honest, I’m probably inclined to just follow the crowd even when I know it’s stupid to do so about ¾ of the time. It’s hard not to. I think all of us have this desire to be liked and accepted. We have the desire to be popular and to belong. And it’s not that those things are bad. We’re built for community; God designed us to belong. But often those desires manifest themselves through fear. We become so afraid that all of those things won’t happen that we just desperately try to blend in. We’ll do anything – no matter how stupid – just to be like everybody else and not stand out.
Peter and the rest of the Disciples clearly didn’t have this problem. They got arrested and thrown in jail for telling people about Jesus. And then God freed them and told them what to do: go preach the good news of Jesus in the temple. Again. So they did. Again. And they were arrested. Again. But when they were brought before the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of Israel which was given power of the religious affairs of the people by Rome) Peter said something courageous and profoundly true, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” He basically said, “We don’t care what you do to us or whether you like us or whether you think we’re cool. We’re not here to cater to the desires of the crowd. God gave us a mission and we are gonna carry it out no matter what people think.”
That’s easier to say than it is to actually live out. But Peter and the other Disciples lived it. And died because of it. If we are going to live the purpose-filled, world-changing lives that God designed us for, if we are really going live with the idea that what matters most is people find Jesus, then we have to be willing to stand out! We have to be different. Take a look at your life. Think about it for a second. In what ways, if any, are you different from everyone else around you? In what ways do you stand out because you are a Christian? I think that the sad answer is that most American Christians live lives that are nearly indistinguishable from the lives of those around them. We tend to live in such a way that we completely blend in to our culture. Who we are at our schools, our jobs, our homes, in our neighborhoods, on our sports teams, and in public places is virtually identical to who non-believers are. And so it is no huge surprise that the world doesn’t seem like its in any hurry to find Jesus. In the midst of its darkness, it has no light to find its way.
My challenge to all of you is to be like Peter. Make the bold declaration today that you will not be more influenced by peer pressure than you are by God. Let’s stand up and stop being the stooge who puts our hand down when we know the right answer just because everyone else is wrong. We must obey God rather than human beings.
ASK: When or where am I most tempted to give in to peer pressure? Why is it so difficult and so scary sometimes to stand out? How is my life different from the lives of everybody else around me? How should it be – what changes can I make – so that people see Jesus in me?
PRAY: Ask God to give you the boldness to stand out and stand up for him. Ask him to give you the courage to overcome your natural inclination to please people instead of him and to help you be the world-changer he has designed and called you to be.