My son, should your less honorable peers pressure you to do what is wrong, you should be strong enough not to go along.Proverbs 1:10 (The Voice)
I like the choice of “your less honorable peers” to the more traditional (and maybe literal) “sinners” in this translation because it captures two very important ideas.
First, we all fall short of the goodness inside of us. We all sin. The traditional translation seems to carry a note of “us vs them,” sinner vs saint, as though any one of us is completely innocent. The VOICE does a great job at expressing the reality that we are all “less honorable.” Some of us are just a tad less honorable than others.
Second, we are all in this together, or peers, as the translation put it. We are all connected. We influence and are influenced in return. It’s not like we are walking around and being screwed over by strangers. It is with the people in our lives that we will screw up….together.
But the admonition to “be strong enough not to go along” is where we get to the money. It assumes that we can be swayed and likely by things we may want.
Temptation is the greatest advertiser of all. It doesn’t bother with things it knows you don’t want. Temptation is embodied in people we trust and in activities or products we desire. Temptation is good at its job.
But, we need to be strong enough to resist it. I suppose there are two ways to be strong here. People strengthen themselves by actually going through the activities. Here, that would mean we get stronger at resisting temptations by actively trying to resist them. It seems backward, but the act of resisting makes the act easier over time because we have used a form of spiritual resistance training if you will.
The second way we gain the strength to resist temptation is by using the strength of others. I recently had a couple of young boys hold a stack of books on outstretched hands. As you might imagine, they didn’t last too long when asked to do this individually. However, when one boy placed his hands under the other boy’s hands, not only were they able to hold the books longer, but they were also able to hold many more books. We are stronger together.
You’re going to mess up. Your friends and family are going to mess up and some of them are going to want to take you with them. Maybe that will be me someday. You need to be strong enough to say no. No is a word you need to get very comfortable saying. Your safety and sanity are always more important than going along with the crowd, even if the crowd wears faces of people you trust and love. Just remember to ask yourself: Does this thing help me show my love for God? Does it help me love someone else better? If the answer is no to either of those questions, then just don’t do it. It won’t always be easy but you have to try.