10–16 February 2019.
A friend once told me how when she was back in school she decided to find a new church to attend. One Sunday morning she visited a church nearby, and during the service she noticed that one of her classmates was there, too. After worship her classmate came up to her, gave her a friendly greeting, and happily said, “Wow, I didn’t know you were a Christian, too!”
For many of us, one of our biggest goals each day is simply to fit in. We want to be included and accepted by others at school or work. And we have learnt that the best way to be liked by everyone else is simply to be like everyone else. Those of us who are parents talk to our children all the time about the dangers of peer pressure, but it’s actually a problem we all face.
In Matthew 26, the one thing Peter wants most of all is just to blend into the crowd. He doesn’t want anyone else to know that he is actually a Christian. While Jesus is inside in the high priest’s house being judged by the religious leaders, Peter waits outside. Three times people come up to him and ask if he belongs to Jesus, if he is a follower of Jesus. But Peter keeps his connection to Jesus a secret, and three times he angrily denies knowing Jesus. Even though Peter fears for his life and has good reasons to lie, after having hidden his faith he realizes that this isn’t the way a good disciple or even a good friend should behave. He realizes his terrible mistake, and he breaks down in tears.
Peer pressure has the same effect on us, too. Many of us desperately try to keep our faith life a secret. We study and work together with others, but we keep this part of our lives completely hidden away. We think that in this way other people will accept us and like us. But in doing this we deny Christ, our best friend. And it’s sad to think that one day others may come up to us, too, and also say, “Oh, I never knew you were a Christian!” What a sad judgement that would be on our discipleship life.
So how can we avoid this problem? As believers it’s important that we never aggressively push our faith onto others or show off our faith. Wearing a cross or putting a Christian sticker on our cars is also not necessarily the best way to let people know we are Christians. Instead, the best way is simply for us to truly live the way that Jesus wants us to live. Then maybe one day someone will come up to us and say, “There’s something different about you. I see the way you care for others. I see the way you are compassionate, talking to others with gentleness, and always standing up for those in need. Why aren’t you like other people?” Then it won’t be a surprise when we happily respond: “Oh, that’s because I’m a Christian!”
Pastor Stephen Lakkis