Peer pressure. It’s everywhere. Whether it’s at an in-person gathering or on social media, the pressure to compete (and conform) comes at us from every direction. Whether it’s someone highlighting their new tech gadget or posting a picture from their fabulous vacation, we experience the pressure to compete (and conform).
We like to think that being a Christian is different, that it puts us above the competition and conformity of human pressure and pleasing. But, it doesn’t. A pastor receives forwards of emails and “Likes” from Facebook sharing an insightful podcast that potentially reminds him that he isn’t seen as that insightful. A church leader receives a video clip showing an inspired worshiping community with a note encouraging her to lead the church toward similar worship. Church staff teams attend conferences of teaching pastors and staff members in large, lavish auditoriums reminding all of them that their worship and ministry space (technology, too) is in need of an update. The pressure to compete (and conform) pushes on all of us.
In our quieter moments, when the pressure meter finally relaxes – maybe even as we’re regretting that we we’ve binged on an expense or pushed for something in a meeting that we really didn’t need – we should take a moment to ask ourselves, “Why?” What causes us to succumb to the pressure from people to compete (and conform) toward the unrealistic, unattainable reality which is portrayed as reality in our lives? What allows pressure from “the other” to build to the point where we pursue something we really don’t want? Why does our inner self fall prey to the outer pressures that push us this way and that way?
In those quieter moments, isn’t the answer pretty clear? We want to be valued. We want to be noticed and seen. We want to know we matter.
Unfortunately, just when we think we’re valued because we’ve gotten “Likes” or a “re-Tweets” or the newest tech gadget/toy; the world turns, the newer and better arrives and we’re yesterday’s news once again. Then, the whole cycle starts over again.
So, what are we to do? How do we live into pleasing God over pleasing the pressure?
How about if we all live into this thought every day? You are a child of God. In the best (and worst) moments of your life, you are a child of God. In the successful (and most difficult) moments of ministry, you are a child of God. When the church you are leading is thriving (and when it is groaning), you are a child God.
In today’s atmosphere of constant and immediate pressure to compare and compete, it’s probably impossible for us to breathe in this thought enough: You are a child of God. You are made in God’s image. Redeemed by God’s love. Empowered by God’s Spirit. Called by God to this moment in your life. You are a child of God.
Romans 8 (NIV)
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
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