Unity in Diversity | Luke 9:49-50

Guest speaker Ron Thomas

Luke 9:49-50 (ESV)

49John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

William Barclay: “It is one of the supreme achievements of Jesus that he can enable the most diverse people to live together without in the least losing their own personalities or qualities… There is nothing which the church needs more than to learn how to yoke in common harness the diverse temperaments and qualities of different people. If we are failing it is our own fault, for, in Christ, it can be done–and has been done… When men are really Christian the most diverse and divergent types can live at peace together. It is only in Christ that we can solve the problem of living together; because even the most opposite people may be united in their love for him. If we really love him, we will also love each other.”

1 John 4:7-12

7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

 

Discussion Starters

  1. What was the reason John gave Jesus for his attempt to stop the stranger from casting out demons in Jesus’s name?
  1. What do you think the concerns of John may have been, as he gave his report to Jesus about the man casting out demons in His name?
  1. Have you ever been ostracized or marginalized by another or a group? If so, how did it make you feel?
  1. What are the reasons behind the practice of exclusion?
  1. Does Dulin’s Grove Church show any evidence of exclusion?
  1. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. As we think about how the church is made up of so many different people, discuss how we are to work and serve together.
  1. How are we demonstrating inclusion of others in our personal lives; within the life of our church?
  1. “A faith that is afraid of other people is not faith at all.” – Thomas Merton –How does faith help us overcome being afraid of other people?
  2. Compare John’s attitude as reflected in the Luke 9:49-50 with his attitude expressed in 1st John 4:7-12. How would you define the differences between these to passages?

Begging Jesus | Mark 5:1-20

3985490626_3865044723_oThis is a bizarre passage. But let’s not dismiss it on that basis. After all, much of the Christian faith (and life itself!) can seem bizarre. And let’s not dismiss it because it may seem irrelevant (I doubt you’ve dealt with extreme demon possession this week…). Let’s look at it carefully and see what we can learn.

Although the demons and the pigs may be the most immediately intriguing aspect of this passage, I believe the most important aspect is Jesus’ authority. This is a topic Mark has already mentioned several times and it’s emphasized by the fact that three different parties beg Jesus in these verses.

The Demons Beg Jesus

Portrait of Possession

1They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.2And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. (Mark 5:1-5)

Try to picture this man in your head. He’s isolated from society, in constant misery, screaming out 24 hours a day and cutting himself with stones.  He’s naked (5:15), with open cuts, smeared with blood, living in the tombs by himself. Many have tried to subdue (if not help) him to no avail. This is a picture of extreme hopelessness.

Submissive Spirits

 6And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” (Mark 5:6-8)

Filled with unclean spirits, “no one could bind him” and “no one had the strength to subdue him.” Yet rather than trying to overpower Jesus in aggression, he falls down before Jesus in submission. Then he addresses Jesus respectfully as “Son of the Most High God.” And finally, the tormentors of the entire town adjure Jesus not to torment them as they reside in the possessed man. They who caused so much fear are afraid of Jesus. This is not a story of how scary demons are. It’s a story of how solid Jesus is.

The Demons Beg Jesus

 10And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. (Mark 1:10-13)

Now I know you’re wondering, “What’s with the pigs?!” I worked really hard to answer that question in my preparation for this sermon. But no one knows. There are some plausible theories, but Jesus never explains it, so we can only guess. I believe the fact that it’s unexplained means it’s unimportant.

So let’s take our eyes off the pigs and notice the permission. Jesus permits the demons to have their way. This is significant. Jesus is permissive toward the demons.

The People Beg Jesus

Afraid Rather than Angry

14The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. (Mark 5:14-15)

The people are not outraged at the death of 2,000 pigs. Nor are they happy for the formerly possessed man. They are afraid. Though meek, Jesus is not a weakling. Though lamblike, he is also lionlike. And in this moment, he is fearsome!

The People Beg Jesus

16And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. (Mark 5:16-17)

Though they are many and Jesus and his disciples are few, they cannot throw him out of the city. They beg him to depart. And guess what: he does. Verse 18 begins, “As he was getting into the boat.” Again he is permissive, this time with those who are rejecting him.

The Man Begs Jesus

18As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.19And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:18-20)

Permission or Direction

The demons beg to enter the pigs; Jesus permits it. The people beg Jesus to depart, he permits it. The man begs to go with Jesus and his disciples; he denies it. Jesus permits the demons and those who reject him, but directs the man who wishes to follow him. All three parties experience Jesus’ authoritative lordship. The demons and townsfolk experience his permissive lordship. The man experiences his directive lordship.

This continues to be a key difference between non-Christians and Christians. Non-Christians may do as they please without redirection from God. They do not have the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin or the Father to discipline them or call them to certain ministries. Christians do have these things. Christians cannot continue in sin without feeling conviction. They cannot rebel against the Father without being disciplined. They cannot plot their own course without guidance from God.

This is a good test for those who are insecure about their salvation. If you’re able to do what you want without the Lord’s directive influence, you’re probably not saved. If God tells you what to do, you probably are saved.

This also provides insight for prayer. We ought not to pray for permission, but direction. We ought to expect redirection as we plan and move forward because his ways are higher than ours. In this way, ‘no’ may be a more common answer to the believer’s prayer than ‘yes.’

As in prayer, so in life: It isn’t about our will accomplished though God. It’s about God’s will accomplished through us.

Discussion Starters

  1. Read the passage together.
  2. What has been your experience with unclean spirits? (See Ephesians 6:10-20 and 2 Timothy 2:24-26 for reminders of more mundane demonic activities.)
  3. Based on this passage, how is Jesus’ permissive lordship different from his directive lordship?
  4. How have you experienced Jesus’ lordship in your life? Were there things you used to be allowed to do that God has directed you away from as you’ve grown in your walk with him? Are there prayers that you’ve prayed that God has answered with ‘no?’
  5. How should this passage influence the way we think about prayer?
  6. Take some time to pray for one another.

Picture by Leland Francisco.

God’s Attentive Presence | Psalm 139:1-16

 

Once you were separated from God. The evil things you did showed your hostile attitude. But now Christ has brought you back to God by dying in his physical body. He did this so that you could come into God’s presence without sin, fault, or blame. (Colossians 1:21-22, GWT)

16046151755_9de1a9fe39_zSin separates; Jesus unites. Sin alienates us from God; Jesus brings us back, enabling us to enjoy his attentive presence without fault or blame.

God is Present with His Children

7Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7-10, ESV)

God is present with his children everywhere. When times are heavenly, he is there. When times are grave (“Sheol” is where dead people go), he is there.

Not only is he present with his children, he is attentive. “Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” If I’m present with her, my hand on her shoulder, leading and holding her, my five-year-old daughter could cross a Walmart parking lot the Saturday before Christmas with her eyes closed. This Fatherly attentive presence is what God’s children enjoy everywhere they go.

God is Attentive with His Children

Uninterested and uninvolved parent can be as heartbreaking to a child as a totally absent one. Presence is only as valuable as the attention it carries with it. Look how attentive God is toward his children:

1O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6, ESV)

God is interested in his children.

  • He searches them, like a search and rescue party searches the countryside for a lost child.
  • He discerns (understands) their thoughts. The other day my wife showed me a passage in a book she was reading because it captured an emotion she had been feeling, but had been previously unable to put into words. He understands these inner thoughts perfectly.
  • He searches (scrutinizes, spreads out and looks through) their paths. Like a kid with his Halloween candy, he spreads their steps before him and inspects each one.
  • He knows their words before they do. Not only can he finish their sentences, he can start them!

God is involved in his children’s lives.

13For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16, ESV)

He didn’t just pull a lever, dispensing them onto a cold conveyor belt. He warmly weaved their substance and days by hand.

He is not some distant concept; he is here. He is attentive. He is interested and involved. And this is what get’s his children through the dark times.

God’s Attentive Presence Gets His Children through the Dark Times

11If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:11-12, ESV)

God does not give his children night vision goggles so they can navigate their own way in the darkness. He gives them himself. He doesn’t help them to see, he sees for them and guides them.

His sheep can say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4). Why? Because they know what lies in the shadows? Because the dangers aren’t real? No! “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

His people can withstand “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Romans 8:35). Why? Because those things really aren’t so bad? No! “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

His children can obey the command, “do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6). How? Because they are so strong? No! “The Lord is at hand” and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (v.5, 7).

Picture by Ashley Webb. 

Beloved, Let Us Love One Another | 1 John 4:7-11

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7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)

Audio only this week:

Wisdom and Faith | Proverbs 3:5-8

774419510_1f67b7e50d_zWe can trust the Lord fully because he is fully trustworthy. Proverbs 3:5-8 shows us how.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

The wise man trusts in the Lord with all his heart. To trust in the Lord partially is to foolishly imply that he is only partially trustworthy. But since we know that he is fully powerful, fully present, fully aware and fully concerned, we should trust him with all our hearts, even when it requires abandoning our own understanding.

My mother-in-law tells a story of singing in her sister’s church. Before taking the stage, her sister whispered to be careful on the steps because they were old and hollow. Her best bet would be to put her weight on the arm rail. She did so, awkwardly tiptoeing up the steps, leaning exaggeratedly on the railing, only to find out later that it was all a joke. The boards were sturdy, and the congregation confused as to why this woman climbed steps so strangely.

Trusting in the Lord, our steps are sturdy, and there is no need to lean on the hand rail of our own understanding. In fact, leaning on our own understanding often proves disastrous because it is our understanding that is hollow. What do we understand now that we didn’t ten years ago? What will we understand in another ten years that we do not now? If we are less understanding than our future selves, how much less than God himself? It is folly to lean on our own understanding rather than trust in the Lord.

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)

Ways and paths are not he same thing. To illustrate the difference, think about driving. Your ways are your actions and attitudes as the driver. Your paths are the roads you travel and the journey itself. The wise man acknowledges the Lord in all his ways (his actions and attitudes) and trusts the Lord to make straight his paths (his journey). It’s like GPS. I rely on my iPhone GPS so fully now that I don’t even look ahead at the steps. I just drive and turn when Siri tells me to.

Often God shows us the way, but not the path. How we would like to know the next ten steps! But alas, usually he will only show us the next one, preferring instead that we focus on faithfully obeying his ways.

Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:7)

The wise person does not consider himself wise, but rather fears the Lord and turns from evil. Fearing the Lord means recognizing that he is the most significant factor in reality and in each specific circumstance. It is a humble way of life.

It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:8)

When we live this way, we enjoy a physical result. Our flesh (literally navel) and bones are healed and refreshed. The corrosive effects of stress are washed away by the nourishing effects of faith.

Discussion Starters

  1. Read Proverbs 3:5-8 together.
  2. On a scale of 1-5, how stressed are you this week? (1 = totally at peace, 5 = on the verge of panic). What’s causing the stress?
  3. What would it look like to perfectly trust in the Lord with all your heart in relation to your current circumstances? What specific understandings do you need to stop leaning on in order to trust God more fully?
  4. What truths or promises from the Bible can you lean on instead of your own understanding?
  5. What would it look like to perfectly acknowledge the Lord in all your ways in reference to your current circumstances? What scriptures can help guide you here?
  6. What is the path you want in reference to your current situations? Are you open to the notion that God may have a totally different path in mind for you?
  7. How has stress and anxiety effected you physically? Does verse 8 appeal to you?
  8. Take some time to pray specifically over your current circumstances, asking God to help each other trust him more fully, lean less on your own understanding and acknowledge him in all your ways.

Picture by Jimmy_Joe.

Proverbs 3:3-4 | Wisdom and Loving Faithfulness

Generally, if you are loving and true, you will be favored and successful.

3Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:3-4)

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Steadfast Love and Faithfulness

Steadfast love is a predetermined commitment to love regardless of the qualifications of the beloved. It says, “I am for you because that’s who I am,” rather than, “I am for you so long as you are lovable.”

I often ask my kids, “Why does daddy love you? Is it because you’re smart, funny or cute? Is it because you’re a good boy? Is it because you’re a good girl?” They know the answer because we’ve gone through this so many times. “No, I love you because I’m your daddy, and that will never change.” I’m trying to teach them that I love them with steadfast love.

Faithfulness is saying and doing truth. You’ll often find these two virtues together in the Bible. Like a kite and string, love functions best when tethered by truth.

When we love without commitment to truth, we’re like a kite without a string. Take for example the overindulgent parent who shields her teenage son from consequences. Her love crumples to the ground without the truth tether. It enables her son to destroy his life through irresponsibility.

When we are true without love, we’re more string than kite. I had a college friend like this. His girlfriend mentioned concern about her weight and instead of offering the warm truth that he thought she was beautiful, he offered the cold truth that she lacked time to workout because of her busy schedule. Critical people are another example. Often their observations are true, but because they are unloving they are considered a pain rather than a help.

Bound Around the Neck and Written on the Heart

…bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 3:3b)

These virtues ought to be constant and genuine. I recently starting wearing a fitness tracker wristband. In order for it to work I must remember to wear it all day and night so it can track my activity and sleep. This is what it means to “bind them around your neck.” Remember to put on these virtues when you wake up, when you go to work, when you come home–all the time. However they cannot be a facade. They are also to be written on the tablet of your heart, which means to press them into yourself so deeply that you live them genuinely from the inside out.

Favored by God and Man

Remember, we’re looking at love and truth through the eyes of wisdom, not righteousness or morality. God is telling us, “This is how my world works. This is how you are designed to operate.” Generally, if you hang on to loving faithfulness you will find favor and good success in the sight of both God and man.

You will appear as one to be favored. You will be offered friendly judgment, given the benefit of the doubt. You will have a good reputation. You will be and appear successful.

Carry loving faithfulness with you and gain your spouse’s respect, good relationships in the community and good standing at work. Let them forsake you and gain disrespect at home, bad relationships in the community and bad standing at work. Selfish unfaithfulness sabotages you. Loving faithfulness promotes you.

But there’s a problem, we all fall far short of constant and genuine love and truth because of sin. That’s where Jesus comes in.

Jesus

As Christians, we have access to an unending source of loving faithfulness in Jesus Christ.

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-17)

In Christ, God looks at us and see’s Jesus’ loving faithfulness. Thus we gain favor and good success in his sight.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Furthermore, in Christ we are new creations, now able to live as Christ lived. As we grow in real-life loving faithfulness, we find favor and good success in the sight of men.

20But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

As Christians, we are steadfast lovers and true. Now may we live like it!

Discussion Starters

  1. Read Proverbs 3:3-4 together.
  2. Who do you know loves with “steadfast love?”
  3. Who do you know who is “faithful?”
  4. What are some practical ways we can bind these virtues around our necks?
  5. What are some practical ways we can write them on the tablets of our hearts?
  6. What does it mean to “find favor and good success in the sight of God and man?”
  7. Have you found this proverb to be true in your life? Have the loving and faithful people found favor and success? Have the unloving and unfaithful people found disapproval and failure?
  8. What resources do we have as Christians to help us be loving and faithful that we wouldn’t have without Christ?
  9. What is one specific way you plan to respond to this passage?
  10. Take some time to pray together.

Picture by _dbr.

Proverbs 1:8-19 | Wisdom and Peer Pressure

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Proverbs 1:10, ESV)

2717000690_bbd69befa5_zYou will be lured by bad people to go along with things you know are wrong. We’ll call this peer pressure, though it can come from anyone, not just your peers.

In Proverbs 1:8-19 we’ll see:

  1. How to spot peer pressure
  2. What to do about it
  3. Why

How to Spot Peer Pressure

Let the following keywords act as red flags as you guard against peer pressure: hide, hurt and have.

Hide

If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason…” (1:11, ESV)

Will going along require you to lie, pretend or keep secrets? Will it hinder you from walking in the light? Will it break your fellowship with God or man?

Peer pressure lures you into hiding. When your boss pressures you to shade the true value of a product, he pressures you to deceive your customers. When your friend whispers gossip in your ear, she invites you to know something you’ll have to pretend you don’t. When a brother pressures his little sister, “Don’t tell mom and dad!” he forces her to taint her previously transparent relationship with her parents.

To press further, think of the secrecy that certain marketing pressures promote. How many advertisements do you see in a given day that invite you to indulge in secret pleasures? That titillating headline or image lures you into a world of easy sleazy procrastination, voyeurism or even brute pornography–all of which leads to hidden guilt, shame and regret. You’ll later have to pretend you don’t have those images floating in your memory, those words ringing in your ears, those minutes or even hours wasted.

5This is the message we heard from Christ and are reporting to you: God is light, and there isn’t any darkness in him. 6If we say, “We have a relationship with God” and yet live in the dark, we’re lying. We aren’t being truthful. 7But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin. (1 John 1:5-7, GWT)

Hurt

11If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit…” (1:11-12, ESV)

Will going along with this hurt anyone? Is there a victim involved? Will there be “blood?” Will anyone be ambushed?

This can be as obvious as the Muslim extremist recruiting via Twitter or the gang initiation requiring a violent crime be committed. It can be as subtle as the group of friends mocking someone for easy laughs. Victims can be swindled clients, slandered gossip subjects, deceived parents, the abused pawns of the porn industry–anyone who is hurt by the pressur-er’s schemes.

Remember, “All of Moses’ Teachings are summarized in a single statement, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself'” (Galatians 5:14, GWT).

Have

13we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse” (Proverbs 1:13-14)

Does going along with this promise easy profit? Will it lead to “precious goods” you didn’t earn, “plunder” rather than the fruit of your own labor?

The pyramid schemer promises big money with little effort.  The cheater promises A’s without study. The flirt promises pleasure without relationship. The gossip promises knowledge without responsibility. The lottery advertisements promise winnings rather than earnings. But the wise person remembers that “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Proverbs 13:11; ESV).

What to do About It

When the hide, hurt and have red flags appear, what should you do?

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Proverbs 1:10, ESV)

“Do not consent” means “do not be willing,” or “do not go along.” It doesn’t mean to fight the pressure-er. It means to resist his pressure.

Peer pressure is a riptide. You can’t fight a riptide, you must escape it. Experts advise that you swim sideways until you’re safely out of the powerful current, rather than swim directly against it in a desperate attempt to defeat it and make it back to shore. When you encounter peer pressure, don’t fight it, escape it.

15my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths… (Proverbs 1:15, ESV)

Based on verse 15, here’s your 2 step peer pressure response plan.

1. Avoid the People

“Do not walk in the way with them.” Don’t be friends with the gossip. Teach your kids to play on the opposite side of the playground, away from the mischievous kids and bullies. Move if you must to distance your children from such bad influences. Transfer out from under the crooked boss. Refrain from going to the websites with tempting headlines and images. Find a new group of friends who do not make fun of people. Get out of the appointment with the pyramid schemer. Whatever it takes, swim away from the current!

2. Avoid the Paths

“Hold back your food from their paths.” Avoid the policies and practices of your crooked coworkers. Avoid the humor of your friends who mock people. Avoid gossipy phrases like, “Don’t tell anyone you heard this from me.” Let it be known that you will not be party to gossip, underhanded business practices or any other means of deception, harm or get-rich-quickery.

Remember Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers.”

Why

16for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
17For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
18but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
19Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors. (1:16-19, ESV)

Remember, Proverbs is primarily pragmatic, not moral. So the reason it gives for avoiding peer pressure isn’t because it’s wrong (which it is), but because it’s foolish. Going along with peer pressure is self-destructive. Your crooked coworkers will be fired and business owners bankrupt. Bullies will be beaten. Mockers will be humiliated. Mischievous kids will be punished. Cheaters will flunk. Gang members will be shot or arrested. Gossips will become social outcasts. Peer pressure-ers ambush themselves. Join them in their practices; join them in their plight.

Discussion Starters

  1. Take some time to catch up.
  2. Read Proverbs 1:8–19 together.
  3. What strikes you most about this passage? Why?
  4. When is the last time you felt pressured to do something you knew was wrong or foolish? Share with the group.
  5. How would this passage have helped you navigate that situation?
  6. Verse 15 seems to indicate that we should avoid certain sinful people. How can we discern when we should move away from people in wisdom and toward people in love? What scriptures come to mind that might help?
  7. What is one practical way you plan to respond to this passage?
  8. Pray together.

Picture by Kevin Dooley.

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