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Shavua Tov

Only six days until Shabbat!

  • Daniel Botkin

Peer Pressure

To illustrate the danger of caving in to peer pressure, the late Elmer Josephson once wrote about an event that happened in the 1940s.

The red lights were flashing at a railroad crossing in Minneapolis. A driver stopped his car as the law requires, even though the train was quite far away.

The car behind him started honking, urging him to go ahead and cross the railroad tracks. The first driver did not want to cross the tracks, even though the train was still quite some distance away. The driver behind him kept honking his horn over and over again. Because of the incessant honking behind him, the driver slammed his foot on his gas pedal to cross the tracks. But the train was traveling much faster than he or the driver behind him realized. The train slammed into the car and killed the driver and all his passengers.

The red lights were flashing for a reason. There are red lights in God’s kingdom, red lights that are there for a reason. God did not establish these red lights because He is a killjoy who just wants to spoil our fun and deprive us of pleasure. Our heavenly Father wants us to enjoy life, but only within the boundaries of His commandments.

The red lights at that railroad crossing in Minnesota were safety boundaries. The driver of the car gave in to peer pressure and transgressed that boundary and lost his life. If you cave in to peer pressure and transgress God’s commandments, you can lose your soul for all eternity.

God is merciful when His people sin because they are ignorant of His will. But when they knowingly compromise their faith and sin with eyes wide open, it brings the bitter fruit of chastisement.

Throughout our life we are constantly pressured to conform to the world. We are pressured by the educational system, by the media, by advertisers, by politicians, by celebrities, and by the entertainment world to conform to their world view. We are pressured to view morality as they do, to embrace the values they hold, to think and to live like they do.

The Bible tells us to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). As you let God renew your mind through prayer and Bible study, you will be equipped to resist the world’s pressure to conform. You will realize it is not really peer pressure that you are feeling, because the unsaved worldlings who pressure you to compromise your faith are not your peers. A peer is an equal. Unsaved worldlings who pressure you to compromise are not your equals. They may be nice people and they may be superior to you in worldly riches, worldly wisdom, and worldly fame, but they are not your peers. You belong to an entirely different kingdom, a kingdom with different values, values that are based on a faith that is not to be compromised.

In Maccabees and Daniel there are good stories about Jews who refused to compromise their faith. There are still Jews who refuse to compromise their faith. Some years ago, I watched A Life Apart, a documentary film about Hasidic Jews in America. The film chronicles the story of the Hasidic Jews who immigrated from Europe to America after the Holocaust. They did not come here to pursue the American Dream or to blend in, like other immigrants usually did. They came here so they could continue doing what they had always done, to simply live as Hasidic Jews.

Leonard Nimoy, the narrator, tells a story in the film. Someone once made a beautiful cover for a Torah scroll, but the cover was too small to fit over the scroll. Someone suggested cutting some pages out of the Torah scroll so the scroll would fit inside the nice pretty cover.

That in essence is what people expected the Hasidic immigrants in America to do, to abandon some of the Torah to make them fit in.

“No,” the Hasidim said. “We are not going to tailor the Torah to fit American life. We are going to tailor our life in America to fit the Torah.” And they did!

The Hasidim were (and probably still are) an embarrassment to some non-Hasidic Jews. It was taken for granted that the Hasidim would abandon their peculiarities. “But the Hasidim didn’t follow the script,” Leonard Nimoy says.

“We don’t care how strange we look,” a Hasid says in the film. “We don’t care how out of place we seem, we don’t care what outsiders think of us. We’re going to live as we believe.”

The Hasidic Jews are blind to the identity of their Messiah, but I admire their refusal to compromise, their refusal to be conformed to the world, and their courage to be viewed as an oddity in a world that is hostile toward God. I only wish I saw these same qualities among Christians.

If you struggle to overcome the world’s continual pressure to conform, take a tip from the Hasidim. Get some Divine determination and some “sanctified stubbornness” and resist that pressure. Even more importantly, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Soak your mind in the Scriptures and in prayer, and it will renew your mind and transform you.

Transformation! It’s the happy alternative to world conformity.

| DB


Image: Psalm 79 by Daniel Botkin. See this and all the Psalms he has painted so far in his Psurrealistic Psalms art gallery at Daniel

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