february 21st - Everyone else
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. 1 Sam 8:4-7 (NKJV)
Do you really want to be like everyone else? Peer pressure can have a tremendous influence on an individual's choices in life. Sometimes we are willing to do things, that we already consider foolish, simply because, "everyone else" is doing it. We involve ourselves in such behavior, because we want to fit in.
True story: Three little boys were playing in a vacant lot where the construction forms for pouring concrete had been piled up. These were used forms, full of 16 penny nails. The oldest of the three boys (age 7) seized the moment to turn one of the 2 X 4’s over so that the sharp end of the nail was exposed. He stepped down on the nail—it punched through the bottom of his shoe and into the bottom of his foot. With tears in his eyes, he looked at the other two boys and said, “Doesn’t hurt me!” So, next up to bat was his best friend (age 6 ½). The second boy mimicked his friend and stepped down on the nail. Through the pain, with his lower lip quivering, he said, “Doesn’t hurt me!” The younger brother of the second boy (age 5) was the only one left. Wanting to impress the older boys with his bravery, he stepped over to the board and then stepped down on the nail. He immediately began
to cry, ran home and told his mom. All three boys were shortly thereafter taken to a medical clinic where they all received a Tetanus shot and had their feet stitched. Moral of the story—well, I’m sure you already get it.
The Israelites wanted to be like the other nations around them. Pray tell me why? The other nations worshiped idols. The other nations engaged in human sacrifice. The other nations were barbaric and unenlightened by comparison. The elders of Israel approached Samuel and said, "Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." (This is a moment where I am working to subdue my desire to rant!) What an ignorant decision! Centuries later, British historian, Lord Acton made the following observation: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
Saul was not an exception to Lord Acton's statement. With the accession of Saul, came higher taxes, corruption, arbitrary and inconsistent decisions, nepotism, wars, and serious holes in the idea of justice and the rule of law. By demanding a King, the nation of Israel did become like the nations around them and in doing so, became something less. Anytime, and every time a nation, or an individual, or any collective of people decide to ignore God's truth and do what everyone else is doing--it is going to end badly. As an individual, we diminish and devalue ourselves when we decide to behave like everyone else simply to fit in. God made you to be unique, one of a kind—that makes you special! My advice: “Dare to be different—dare to stand out from the crowd—Settle for nothing less than to be who God created you to be!”
Author's Note: I know that the drive to be loved and accepted by others is a colossal force in our lives. It seems to hit its peak level of influence in our teen years and into early adulthood. This generally makes this developmental time in life a dangerous time as "worldly" influences make their move to take control. How do we keep this corruption of character from taking hold of our children? That is the challenge that faces the church today. There are no easy answers, but I would start by "strongly" connecting our children with peers of like faith. This is a cause worth fighting for. RJD