A peer is a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status. So what is peer pressure? It is where there is social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted.
So what impact does peer pressure have on you? And what does the Bible say about it?
Going against the flow
Peer pressure is going in the same direction as the crowd. But if they are doing wrong the Bible strongly counsels the person to change directions.
"Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit. (Exodus Ch.23:2-3)
It is easy to follow the crowd in doing wrong, because the way of the world is a broad road which many people walk. People do not like to be unpopular and therefore are reluctant to support an unpopular cause. Most people prefer to follow the majority. The man or woman of God must develop the independence of mind to firstly seek God’s help and then walk in God’s way irrespective as to the opinion of others.
Imagine you were in a crowd walking out of a packed room when you all of sudden had to turn around because you had forgotten something in the room. You can imagine how hard and difficult it is to try and walk against the crowd. In a similar way it requires a lot of courage to go in a different direction to the crowd.
Examples of going with the crowd
Unfortunately, the Bible is full of examples of people who were swept along by a popular movement to evil and destruction.
Here are a few of examples of what not to do:
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal ; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:1-3)
God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. (Genesis 6: 12
The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. (Genesis Ch.7:1)
Most of the men and women who lived at the time of Noah were swept along with the crowd. Noah and his family went against the crowd and followed the commands of God. As a result, they were the only ones saved at the time of a huge destructive flood.
II Pontius Pilate
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Matt.27:24-26)
Although Jesus was innocent according to Roman law, Pilate caved in to political pressure. He abandoned what he knew was right. Pilate made a decision that would please everyone while keeping himself safe.
When we lay aside God’s clear statements of right and wrong and make decisions based on the preferences of the crowd, we fall into compromise and lawlessness. God promises to honour those who do right, not those who make everyone happy.
The tendency of people is to join a majority: the danger is that the majority may be supporting that which is wrong. It is possible for a person to speak in support of an issue merely to deceive others that he supports it, whereas he knows it is wrong. It is difficult to stand against the tide of public opinion, but it is evil to imply support for a matter that you secretly oppose.
III Peter at Antioch
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (Galatians Ch.2:11-13)
Peter was driven by fear as he was concerned about what James and others would think of him being with Gentiles. James had a very prominent position and presided over the council. But Paul accused Peter of his actions violating the gospel. Compromise is an important element in getting along with others, but we should never compromise the truth of God’s Word. If due to peer pressure we feel we have to change our Christian beliefs to match those of our companions, we are on dangerous ground.
Strong advice from the Bible
My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, "Come along with us; let's lie in wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul; let's swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse"- my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; (Proverbs Ch.1:10-15)
The enticement of sinners hinges on the desire of people (especially young people) to belong to a pressure group. There is a excitement to many to be the member of group which is going against all of societies laws. Yet the warning come “my son, do not go along with them”. It takes courage to “not set foot on their paths”. But the courage is repaid by the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a stand based on your own beliefs.
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. (Proverbs Ch.4:14-15)
Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame. (1 Corinthians Ch.15:33-34)
How knowing Jesus Christ can make a difference
Peer pressure can rob us of our joy in Christ.
We stand true to the Lord whether others honour us or despise us, whether they criticize us or commend us. We are honest, but they call us liars (2 Corinthians Ch.6:8) The Living Bible
What a difference it makes to know Jesus! He cares for us despite what the world around us thinks. Believers don’t have to worry about public opinion and pressure. The apostle Paul stood faithful to God whether people praised him or condemned him. He remained active, joyous, and content even in the most difficult times. Be firm and stand true to God, and refuse to compromise his standards for living.
Pleasing God or man?
We have to make a choice – do we please God or man?
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians Ch.1:10)
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew Ch.10:28)
Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! (Acts Ch.5:29)
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind". (Romans Ch.12:2)
There is a lot of peer pressure to conform to the standards set by the world, and without a doubt it is possible for anyone to be caught up and absorbed into the system without even trying. However, the world of today does not offer a model which you want to copy especially if you are a believer. There is a different course to take which offers a much better model to copy. That is the path offered by Jesus Christ – his path offers eternal life.