I was teaching some pre-teens recently and we were talking about peer pressure. Sometimes in religious lesson manuals, there are little stories about teens who stand up to their friends when asked to do something wrong. In the stories, things usually work out really well. A teen who refuses to watch an inappropriate movie, drink, or participate in some other type of immorality has an influence on her friends, who all agree to do something else instead.
In real life, the kids I taught agreed, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes your friends will make fun of you for refusing to participate, thinking of you as a baby. Sometimes you even wind up losing friends over it. There are a lot of teenagers who consider that a good reason to just go along with the crowd. They consider their popularity and friendships to be their top priority.
Christian teens know that Jesus Christ is supposed to be their priority. They also know it’s not always easy to make Him the priority, especially when it threatens their friendships or popularity. For many teens, though, the realization of what Jesus experienced is enough to give them the courage to stand up for their beliefs. They remember that when Jesus lived on earth, He was made fun of all the time. They called Him names and even beat Him. It is likely that even as a teenager, He encountered people who thought His perfect life was boring and stupid and that He faced teasing from His friends for not going along with the crowd. Jesus was, after all, a teenager once. Although He was perfect, He was perfect by choice. He could have sinned, could have gone along with the crowd….He just didn’t. He put God first.
If Jesus could endure the mocking, the beatings, and even murder rather than deny His faith, we can find it in ourselves to stand up to our peers when they want us to lower our standards. The teen years are hard, but the truth is that adults face the same pressures from friends, family, and bosses. The skills we learn as teenagers can help us get through the adult challenges to our moral standards.
And when it comes down to it….do you really want friends who have no respect for you? It may be time to find some new friends who will strengthen and support you when others are tearing you down.