The Chains of “Cool”
I am not sure what the latest word is that would describe someone who is dressed in the latest fashions and has the latest everything. We used to say they were “cool” and then “hip”. I am not sure what that word is now. (Yes, I know I am definitely showing my age here, but hopefully you will stick with me…)
When we were teens we were so driven by peer pressure. Can you remember those days? When I was in high school, the “in” thing to have was designer jeans. Jordache, Calvin Klein, and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans were the thing to wear. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but my mom took me school shopping late one summer and we found a good deal on Calvin Klein jeans. Wow, those jeans made me feel amazing! I finally looked “cool” (at least I thought I did–I’m not sure that anyone else thought that!)
We often think peer pressure is for young ones and goes away as we get older, but it really doesn’t. For some of us it does get better, but for many of us we continue to live driven by what people think of us.
Now, before we dig a little deeper into this subject of adult peer pressure, there is value in considering the thoughts and feelings of others. Paul talks about this in I Corinthians 8, where he is discussing things eaten to idols. In verse 9 he reminds us that we should think of others as we make choices that we have the freedom to make in Christ–
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
There are many other verses in the New Testament that would encourage us to think of and love others (check out Philippians 2:3-4, I Corinthians 13, and I John 3).
So, of course, we know we must consider the thoughts and feelings of others. But notice that these verses are always “others” centered. Every one of the verses above and any other verse you will find about how we treat others in the New Testament is based on minimizing self, while focusing our attention on the other person.
Contrast this thought to the chains of “cool” (as I call them), which are completely focused on self. They are an obsession with making sure that we are thought of highly, that people think we have it all. They bring a preoccupation with the world’s styles, trends, and happenings. These chains keep us from speaking up about God and from sharing the Gospel. They are often the driving force behind the laughs at dirty jokes and the silent participation in things we know God hates.
These chains become a prison from which no action can be done without first thinking of its affect on what people will think of us. Rather than God’s desires and looking to His Word, these chains become the driving force behind what we wear, what we watch, what we do.
They are really a tiresome and ugly taskmaster but no one seems to care all that much. Looking like everyone else around us can become such an ingrained idol, that we soon grow used to those chains, forgetting the wonderful freedom we have in Christ.
(You have to wonder what kind of role peer pressure has played in history. Was it part of how Hitler became the chancellor of Germany and convinced young people to take part in the genocide of Jews? Is it how he got the German Christians to ignore what was going on around them? It is a powerful, powerful tool in the hands of the wrong man.)
So how do we make sure that peer pressure isn’t what is driving us personally? How do we keep free from the bondage of those chains of “cool”?
The first place (and really only place) to look for answers is the Bible. It is a hard discussion to have because what the Bible teaches goes against all that the world and even the church is saying currently. The world is telling us we must be like them in order to have any respect at all. The world would have us give up all biblical convictions and cave on the most basic of principles in order to be liked by them. This has led to great compromise, as we watch more and more churches capitulate to the demands of the world. Meanwhile, the mainstream church is saying we must be like the world to win the world. The great sin of the day is irrelevance. One has to wonder how low the view of God must be for someone who perpetuates this viewpoint but it is incredibly popular. So much so that it is now woven into the thought patterns of most young people and many old ones, as well. But, as we will will see below, this is actually in opposition to what the Bible teaches.
Let’s unpack this a bit and look at what God has to say about these things.
First, let’s look at what our view of the world’s opinions should be. There are many verses that talk about how we should view the world, but I am going to share James 4:4, which makes it extremely clear–
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
There is no ambiguity here. You cannot be friends with the world and with God at the same time. Think of a big river. The world is headed one way and the Christian is swimming upstream in the other direction, in complete opposition to the world. We cannot be swimming downstream and still claim to be God’s child. James couldn’t be any clearer on this point.
Practically speaking, this means that while there is nothing innately wrong with dressing stylishly or going to the movies or whatever, the driving force behind our choice should never be our desire to be like everyone else. Our choices shouldn’t be driven by our fear of the world’s derision, marginalization, and persecution.
Now, if you are being honest with yourself at this point, you will agree with me that this is much easier to write and read than to live out. We are naturally driven by our desire to fit in. It takes great intention and strength to stand out like a sore thumb in the midst of a crowd. It is not an easy path. But we know it is the path of the Christian. Jesus tells us this 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.
And Paul confirms Jesus’s words in 2 Timothy 3:12–
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
These aren’t our favorite verses and I rather guess they are rarely chosen for Bible memory, and yet these are just two verses of many more that would remind us that we will not be loved by the world if we walk with Jesus Christ.
I don’t love to be reminded of this any more than you do, but it is the truth, according to the Bible.
Now, let’s look a bit at the church’s argument that we won’t win anyone to the Gospel without being like them. What does the Bible have to say about this?
The verse that always comes to mind when this discussion comes up is John 6:44–
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
In this verse, Jesus reminds us that it is the Father who draws man unto Himself. There is nothing we can do to make someone become saved. Ephesians 1:3-6 further elaborates on this same theme–
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
These verses teach us that the salvation of those we love and care about is not based on what we do or do not do. Now, that being said, God does choose to use us to win souls for Him. But what we must remember is that He doesn’t need us. These verses shouldn’t keep us from sharing the Gospel but they should most definitely keep us from compromising our convictions and participating in sinful things under the guise of “winning people to Christ”. God chooses to use us but He doesn’t need our compromise and dalliances with the world to further His kingdom. In contrast, James would tell us to remain unspotted from the world (James 1:27). (And may I suggest that prayer would be a much better way to win those we love. God answers prayer! It is a much more effective tool than worldliness!)
I wish I could tell you that I have never worn the chains of “cool”. I really do. But, unfortunately, sometimes before I even realize it, I find myself in bondage to them once again. Thankfully, the Word is the key that unlocks the lock to those chains. When I get back into the Word, when I stay in the Word, that is when I am least vulnerable to these chains.
If you find yourself really driven by what other people think of you, I hope that you will get into the Word and dig deeper into this subject. There is so much there that I wasn’t able to include in this short post.
Let’s unlock that lock and shake off those chains, so that we can be vibrant, courageous, and unwavering testimonies for Christ.