I once saw a group of teenage boys who were wearing pants that were about ten sizes too big. Some of the teens were limited to the use of only one arm. This was a self-imposed limitation. I watched one young man who resorted to the use of both hands to open a door, and as he did, his pants fell around his ankles. I chuckled to myself; if his parents had told him, “These are the only pants we can afford,” what would have been his reaction? If the parents had said, “These pants belonged to your Uncle Joe, and we know they are way too big, but that’s all we have; however, the Lord has given you two good hands, so surely you can spare one to hold them up.” Can you imagine how this kid would have responded to such a request? Why then do kids wear these ridiculous pants that make them look like clowns and literally prohibit them from having good mobility? It’s evidence of the power of peer pressure to accept what may be illogical and even outrageous as completely normal.
The truth is that we live in a world where we are easily influenced by the opinions of others. Add to this the fact that most humans want people to like them. These factors make a strong temptation for people to follow the crowd even if it is something they don’t like. Every day there is pressure to do things the way everybody else does them. I remember how hard it was as a high school and college student to think and act independently of the majority. It is amazing that something so dangerous as binge drinking or promiscuous sex is approved behavior because it’s what everybody is doing. We even begin to think like everyone else. Our society tells us that outward beauty is more important than inward integrity. The multitude tells us to put our needs above everyone else. The crowd tells us how to think, what to do with our money, and how to behave, and most do it without even a whimper.
I came across this verse the other day, and I thought how relevant the Bible is. God knows that we are tempted to do what everyone else is doing even if it is wrong, so he warns us.
Exodus 23:2 "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”
God has called us to be different. He wants us to follow his precepts and obey his Word.
There is nothing easy about this, but the Bible is replete with examples of those who did this from Abraham to Paul. I have found it helpful in my own life to examine my priorities periodically and see what the important things in my life are. Only when I know what I believe and why I believe it, will I be able to say no to the crowd. Then I will be strong enough to follow my principles. I think this is what Jesus was referring to when he said:
Matthew 16:24 "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”