Peer pressure is nearly always looked upon as a negative thing. Makes sense really, if we are sinful by nature then the tendency to do wrong is much easier than the tendency to do right. It is easier to go with the flow than to swim upstream.
Addictions are another negative aspect of humanity – you rarely hear of people getting hooked on things that are good for you. I don’t expect there will ever be much demand for fruit eaters anonymous or a recovery group for people who get plenty of healthy exercise.
However, recent research on the power of the peer has come up with some interesting findings. It seems that any time someone changes their behaviour they have a significant impact on those around them. For example a recent study on the effect of reformed smokers has shown that a person is 20more likely to give up smoking if they are part of a network of people, where one has recently quit the habit.
It seems that this works even if the quitters are unknown to each other. What they didn’t report on is the number of other people in the network who may not have actually given up, but began to feel guilty about their smoking and thought about quitting.
Other behaviour patterns can be affected like this also. Paul alludes to this when he says “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” (1Cor 7:14)
What he is saying is that once a person becomes a believer, he or she will begin to have a powerful sanctifying influence on the whole family.
Sometimes that process will be very encouraging, like for example, the young man who discovered that his father stopped using filthy language, not because the son made an issue of it, but because he’d stopped using it himself. Then there was the man who stopped his heavy drinking because he no longer had a boozy wife. Initially the non-converted family members may also begin to ask questions but it doesn’t take long before conflict begins to emerge.
When you become a Christian you will greatly upset the family equilibrium in many ways. Your desire to be involved in church activities, read the Bible and talk about God, not to mention changes in moral behaviour will be very unsettling. Worse still you have inadvertently dragged your family into the greatest conflict the world has ever seen – the war between darkness and light, life and death, Satan and God. Satan will use every dirty trick in the book to get you back but also to derail every attempt you make at sharing your new-found faith at home.
The good news is that Paul’s words also indicate, by implication, that God will have a very deep and abiding interest in your family – you won’t be working alone.
The most important thing you can do is to live like a Christian. It is not about demanding that your family members buy into your newfound purity – it is about love, understanding, wisdom, patience and above all, grace. If you believe you have been forgiven much then you should act like you have been forgiven and be forgiving to others, especially those who are members of your own family.
Paul also indicated that when we live as Christ would have us live and say what Christ would have us say, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience ( 1 Cor 10:9) You communicate to the deepest yearnings within every man best when you begin to live the life that every man’s conscience desperately seeks to live. You have to assume that since men were created for God there is no peace in a man until he has found peace with his Heavenly Father. Let them see the peace in you and wait for the questions to come.
Preach the Gospel properly and you might get an opportunity to use words.
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