If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
The Harlem Renaissance, 2016
When confronted by peer pressure we have a choice: follow worldly or spiritual wisdom. For example, in 1 Samuel we learn that King Saul tried to kill David many times. Then, under comical circumstances, the tables turned, and David was given an opportunity to kill his king.
Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men…. He came to… a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. (1 Samuel 20:1-3)
David and his men were hiding in the back of the same cave, unseen by King Saul. They suggested that God had delivered Saul to them, and urged David to kill him. After all, if David killed Saul, David would become king and they could stop hiding.
And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” (1 Samuel 20:4)
The peer pressure tempted David, but he changed his mind as he advanced toward Saul who was unaware of what was happening. Rather than kill the king, David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. Even then, despite great risk, David followed Saul out of the cave to apologize and swear his allegiance to the king. David overcame peer pressure, which seemed gratifying or practical in the moment. He managed to distinguish between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom from heaven. There is a distinct difference.
The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. (James 3:17)
There are other examples of peer pressure in the Bible. In some cases, worldly wisdom (eg, Pontius Pilate, Peter at Antioch) prevailed, while in others spiritual wisdom from heaven (eg, Noah, Lot but not his wife) prevailed. The Bible makes it clear that the latter is the better path.
Finally, remember that peer pressure wasn’t limited to biblical times. It’s present today. It’s just as tempting and just as risky.
For example, earlier this year, Kiera Wilmot, a high school student, ran into trouble after failing to get approval from her teacher for a science experiment. Instead, her classmates persuaded her to perform it outside the classroom. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Kiera combined aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner in a small bottle. After about 30 seconds, the reaction created pressure inside the bottle, blowing the cap off with a pop that according to witnesses sounded like firecrackers going off.
No one was injured and no property was damaged, but Kiera was expelled because she created a chemical explosion on school grounds. In addition, she was arrested and charged with felony (possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device). Though criminal charges were dismissed, it will take 5 years to clear her record.
Before we give in to peer pressure, perhaps Adelaide Pollard offered the best advice in her 1907 lyrics to this hymn titled “Adelaide.” The last verse is most pertinent and is presented here.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.
Marty Robbins sings Adelaide.