The "In Crowd" VS
The following joke appeared in the July 2004 edition of Reader's Digest:
While this is humorous as an age joke, it's not so funny when you're a teenager facing the very real challenge of peer pressure. This is especially true for Christian teens. Children and adults are either oblivious to such pressure, or are confident and secure enough not to care. Most teens, however, do care about what other people think.
When I was a teenager, lo these 20 years ago, we referred to this phenomenon as being part of the "in crowd." I remember an article in my school newspaper about what was "in" and what was "out." Nike shoes were in, Adidas was out. Walkman radios were in, transistor radios were out. Three-wheelers were in, motorbikes were out. Thinking back on that list, it was really about materialism and excluding kids whose parents didn't have the money for whatever was "in" at the time.
As a Christian, this begs the question: Can a person be part of the "in crowd" and still be "in Christ" at the same time? Can a Christian be popular with the world?
After asking myself this question, I decided to ask some teens to see what they think. Through the internet, I received responses from several church-going young people.
Respondents were from 12 to 19 years of age, and resided in Texas, North Carolina and Kansas.
My questions about "popular people" were regarding dress, alcohol and drug use, sexual activity before marriage, how they treat others, and if one can be both popular and a Christian. The majority opinion about dress was that popular people wear new, fashionable, brand-name clothes that are too short, show too much cleavage, and try to conform to the world ("like models in magazines"). In other words, they dress immodestly. That's how the world would have one dress, but how does God want us to dress? 1 Timothy 2:9-10 states, "in like manner also, [I desire] that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works."
The importance of modest, non-revealing dress is evident when Titus tells us in chapter 2, verse12, "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." And in 1 Pet. 2:11-12, "as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles." From the perspective of dress, it sounds like it would be quite difficult for a Christian to be considered popular.
Those surveyed who are old enough to drive described popular teenagers as driving new, sporty vehicles such as Ford Mustangs and "extremely nice SUVs." Is it a sin to have a nice vehicle? Certainly not. But does it seem wise to put someone who's been driving for less than 5 years in an expensive sports car!?! Not hardly. 1 Jn. 2:15-16 seems to apply here: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world."
Next I asked about popular teens' alcohol and drug use. Those surveyed concurred that most all of them drink, and that many (especially boys) use drugs. Health and legal issues aside, God condemned such activities in 1 Peter 4:3-5 "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."
I found the surveyed teens' response to my question "Are popular people sexually active before marriage?" the most disturbing. All responded yes, that the majority are sexually active. If fear of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases isn't enough to stop teens from premarital sex, God's word on the matter certainly should be. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4).
I asked how popular people treat others? The answers I received were basically, "some are nice, some aren't." Those who "aren't" would do well to read the words of Jesus in Luke 14:12-14 "Then He also said to him who invited Him, 'When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.'"
One 18 year old respondent stated, "the popular person who hangs out with the party/popular crowd puts others down by spreading rumors about them and remain jealous and angry at those who haven't fallen into the temptations they have." But Ephesians 4:31-32 states, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you."
Finally, I asked if popular people can also be Christians. All the teens' answers were basically that it is possible to be popular and a Christian, but it's not very likely. Judging from the fact that the survey showed the "in crowd" to be people who dress immodestly, drink and are sexually active, I would have to concur that it is indeed not likely. For to be "in Christ" is:
Can a Christian be popular with the world? Jesus warned his followers in John 15:19, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." Two chapters later when Jesus was praying for his disciples, he said, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." (John 17:14-16)
Out of the teens I surveyed, the matter was summed up nicely by a 14 year old who said, "You can have lots of friends, but you can't be in the 'in crowd.' " As parents, we should be teaching our children early on that it is possible, and certainly desirable, to be liked and respected by people, but that they should never be willing to let the world be the victor in the battle of the "in crowd" vs. in Christ. Let us remind our children daily that "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." 1 John 4:4.