John 6:66-69. From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Standing out is worth more than selling out.
The speed limit was 55mph. I knew it too. I had driven this stretch of Route 50 numerous times and had even had an encounter with a police car one of those times years ago. But even so, I had places to go and things to do. I watched as my speedometer played chicken with 60, then 65mph. Remembering that $150 ticket, it bumped back to 60—that is until out of the corner of the mirror, I saw two cars race past me in the left lane. They were going above 70, probably more like 80. I relaxed. I thought, “if they’re ok, I’ll be ok.” Over the next few minutes, I sped up, staying below their speed. Somehow, watching those two vehicles fly by gave me imaginary permission to do the same.
What do you do when others around you—perhaps even those you respect-- take a path you know you shouldn’t take? What often makes it easier to take that road is when you see someone else do it first. Most of us know that peer pressure doesn’t end when you graduate. But unlike teenagers coercing one another to drink or join the football team, peer pressure among adults tends to be insidious. It is also plenty powerful.
Jesus understood the power of peer pressure. When the “good times” of Jesus’ ministry begin to turn into a rocky, confusing, costly road, not just a few but MANY of the disciples to abandon ship and declare “game over.” I imagine the tidal wave started with only one or two who were brave enough to make the first exit, to give the rest the imaginary permission they needed to take the easier road and go home. When Jesus turns to his Twelve and asks them who they will follow—the “many” or just him-- we don’t know what he was expecting. But we do know one man’s gutsy response: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Unlike the “many” who fall away, Peter dares to be the one voice that questions the alternative. And perhaps because of Peter, a chapter later we see that the Twelve haven’t gone home but are still following.
Instead of selling out to the “many,” Peter dares to be the one who stands out.
While peer pressure, even as adults, can lead us down roads that destroy, alternately it can also help us save the day. It can even aid us in helping others choose Jesus’ way. Many times we tend to underestimate the influence and impact we can have when we challenge the call of the “many.” Taking the hard road, the right road, the road that follows Jesus, might mean we’re all alone at first, but perhaps not for long.
On Today's Road: When have you recently experienced the pull of the “many?” What will it take for you to stand out instead of sell out? Whose story might you be influencing without even knowing it?