Some say that the peer pressure that children and teens endure today is much more significant than that faced by generations of the past because the issues seem to be more difficult. It is certainly true that there are more choices available to teens today that have much more significant consequences. Yet, does the struggle to resist negative influences increase based on the different issues that each generation faces?
Today, teens deal with issues including, but not limited to, the growing support for legalization of marijuana, our increasingly sexualized culture of younger and younger individuals, and the constant need to communicate through social media (often to the exclusion of other positive relationships.) Regardless of the issues, the ability to think clearly, make positive choices, and do so in the face of friends who may be negative influences remains the task at hand. The negative consequences associated with following negative influences are an ever-present struggle.
One of the most dramatic and significant examples of negative peer pressure is from Passion Week. On Sunday, Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people were singing, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.” Jesus was riding on a donkey, and experiencing the praises of His own home town. In the period of a week, the Hosanna’s and the praises turned to “Crucify Him.” What happened?
It is important to remember that the system of government in Jerusalem was not like the system of government we enjoy in the United States. The Jewish people affirmed a theocratic government. This is a form of government in which the people believe the officials are able to understand God’s will and have the authority to carry out this will. During the time of Jesus, there were two groups that had this authority: The Sadducees, which was the more conservative of these two groups, and the Pharisees. The primary difference between these two groups is the Pharisees accepted the oral interpretations of the Law that had been communicated down through the generations as equivalent to the law itself. These two groups combined were called the Sanhedrin. Of course, during the time of Jesus, the Romans were an occupying force and they allowed the Jews to practice their own religion. With limited restrictions, such as the ability to sentence someone to death, the Sanhedrin had a tremendous amount of power.
In the United States, we enjoy the balance of power among three branches of government. Congress writes the laws. The Supreme Court interprets the practical application of the laws, and the President is ultimately responsible to ensure that the laws are carried out through various departments in the Presidential Cabinet. This separation of power allows for many people to be involved in the process. This was not the case in Jerusalem. All of this power was in the hands of the Sanhedrin, and they used this power based on their understanding of God’s will. Yet, people of all generations love power; and often times, individuals in authority move from doing God’s will to doing their own will in God’s name.
When Jesus was arrested, the Sanhedrin was the group of people that interrogated Him. They obviously had an agenda. Since they did not have the ability to execute someone, they sent Jesus to the Roman authorities. In Mark 15:11 Gospel, it states that the chief priest “stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas.” With the theocratic government, this was like President Obama, John Roberts (US Supreme Court chief justice), Eric Holder (US attorney general), and a religious leader like Billy Graham all trying to convince you to call for the release of Barabbas. Peer pressure has always been a force in the lives of people. The message here is to choose your friends and those who you allow to have an influence in your life very wisely. Power and authority does not always equal a positive influence. Require individuals to earn the right to be an influence, and then cherish all that you can learn from that person.