Sermons

Summary: How to resist the pressure to conform

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Introduction/background

Recently I watched a movie called Minority report. In the movie, there are three psychics (pre-cogs) that can look into the future, they foresee the occurrence of future crime and hence prevent it from happening.

The pre-cogs are supposedly never wrong, in fact the movie tells us that sometimes they can disagree and one of them can submit a minority report.

Today’s message is also about a minority report.

We live in a democratic society, majority rules.

If we can go along with majority’s view – fine. Otherwise, what are our options? We have basically two options:

1. abandon our position, and follow the crowd.

2. maintain our position and face the consequence of not part of mainstream.

These were also the dilemmas facing the early Christians, who were the original audience of the letter. We mentioned last time that initially they were considered to be a sect of the Jewish faith. Then gradually, because of their belief in Jesus, they were separated from the synagogues, sometimes they left, other times they were ex-communicated. They were despised by the society and always under pressure to renounce their faith.

The former US President Bill Clinton in a speech delivered last December summed it up very well. That’s what he said: “From the dawn of human society up to the present time, we have been bedevilled by a persistent curse: the compulsion people feel to define the meaning of their lives in positive terms with reference to those who are like them racially, tribally, culturally, religiously, politically, and by negative reference to those who are different. People then feel compelled to oppress those who are different when they are small and powerless enough not to prevent it”.

Can we be facing the similar challenge? Perhaps not exactly with the same intensity that the early Christians faced. But like it or not, even we live in a so called western Christian society, I hope you will agree that the predominant value system and belief in today’s society is not the Judeo-Christian faith but rather materialism and humanism. Christians like it or not are a minority group in most societies. Hence, we always face pressure to conform especially in a materialistic and atheistic society. We always face the temptation to follow the crowd, if that means to abandon our principles and sometimes even our faith, we may succumb to it if the pressure or the temptation are too great.

This pressure to conform is probably greatest among young people and teenagers. Charles Swindoll in his book Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p. 225 gives this illustration: “A few years ago psychologist Ruth W. Berenda and her associates carried out an interesting experiment with teenagers designed to show how a person handled group pressure. The plan was simple. They brought groups of ten adolescents into a room for a test. Subsequently, each group of ten was instructed to raise their hands when the teacher pointed to the longest line on three separate charts. What one person in the group did not know was that nine of the others in the room had been instructed ahead of time to vote for the second-longest line. Regardless of the instructions they heard, once they were all together in the group, the nine were not to vote for the longest line, but rather vote for the 2nd longest line. The experiment began with nine teen-agers voting for the wrong line. The stooge would typically glance around, frown in confusion, and slip his hand up with the group. The instructions were repeated and the next card was raised. Time after time, the self-conscious stooge would sit there saying a short line is longer than a long line, simply because he lacked the courage to challenge the group”.


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