We’ve all been there. You’re cruising on the interstate and you take a casual glance at your speedometer. Whoa—you were NOT prepared for that!
How did this happen?
You were in the flow of traffic, going along with the crowd. Your speeding probably won’t lead to a ticket, but any police officer who stopped you would be justified. You were flat-out guilty.
What is a Sin of Conformity?
Many sins in our lives follow this pattern. We get swept along in the tide and can’t believe what we’ve done. We’re always responsible for our actions, but sometimes social pressure tempts us in powerful ways.
Sins of conformity happen when, because of the pressure to fit in, you adopt the sinful action or inaction of a group. Active sins in this category include gossip, coarse language, and spending above your means. (This is just a sample.) Sins of omission show up too—prayerlessness, failing to care for the poor, and failing to evangelize can be epidemic in churches.
An Incremental Slide
With good intentions, how can we end up with such rotten behavior?
The answer, as always, is our hearts. Though a Christian’s heart is being transformed by God, the old man lurks. He tempts us with empty promises and false treasures.
Most people crave the approval and acceptance of their peers. To secure this love, we adopt the practices, preferences, and values of our social group.
This happens by increments. Few people wake up one morning determined to gossip about a coworker. But after weeks of indulging office chatter, we slide from tolerating to agreeing with to participating in the sin.
In his mercy, God alerts us to sins of conformity in one of three ways.
Sometimes, God convicts us supernaturally. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the damage we’re doing to ourselves and others.
Other times we see a righteous example. A “slow” car in our lane obeys the speed limit, or an officemate speaks up for the slandered.
Finally, we might be confronted with our sin. A godly friend rebukes us for inappropriate joking or an audit uncovers dishonest use of money at work. Though it might seem severe, God can use the consequences of our sin to bring us to repentance.
Even when you’re convicted about a sin of conformity, it can be hard to stop. Refusing the sin means resisting the social pressure that makes the temptation powerful. How will you handle upsetting the group?
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the key. We all want to be liked and included, and if you’re a Christian, you are! You are a child of God, eternally a member of his family. Because Jesus was excluded for a time on the cross, you are loved and welcomed in the best way imaginable. Though your repentance may displease your friends, be confident that God is pleased with you. All the favor and approval you want from other people, you have in your sovereign, loving, heavenly father.
Avoiding These Sins
Though we think of peer pressure mostly for adolescents, sins of conformity are present in all social groups. Repenting of these sins is one matter, but how can we avoid them?
- Pray. Pray that God will sharpen your conscience and make you aware of your weaknesses, your temptations, and the group pressures you face. Pray for the Spirit’s help to stand firm in the gospel.
- Read the Bible. The Scriptures replace the loud, urgent messages of our peers with the eternal truths of God’s law and his love.
- Nurture close friendships. You need at least one person in your life who can—and will—ask you anything. He knows your struggles and tendencies, and you can talk honestly with him about your wider social circles. Sin is deceptive, so we must have devoted friends with whom we speak regularly and deeply about the most important things in life.