When I choose the wrong path while under pressure, is it mere weakness or something more?
I lived in California for over 30 years. I learned early-on that I was often in the minority religiously, morally, and politically. In fact, if one held a remotely conservative view, silence was the recommended modus operandi… unless you wanted to lose your job, be branded as a bigot, or simply sneered at. Liberals, on the other hand, vehemently spoke on their viewpoints even when it was unrelated to the subject at hand.
I remember sitting at a networking business luncheon as the keynote speaker went on a random tirade about then-President Bush, even though the subject was supposed to be successful networking. I was a recent college grad and I was representing the small marketing company I worked for. I still wonder if I should have stood up and asked her to stick to the topic at hand or gone to the President of the Association and asked her to intervene. Instead I did what most conservatives do: I sat and steamed in silence.
If you ever wonder how California got so over-the-top liberal, I can tell you in a word: Silence.
When people fail to speak, their silence is taken as consent.
Sometimes, it’s even worse: they consent because they feel pressured to comply.
In Exodus 32, Aaron—the High Priest of Israel—is approached by the Israelites while they are waiting for Moses to return from the mountain. They demand that he make them “gods” to worship. Aaron, as a de facto leader, should have squared his shoulders and had them severely punished for the mere suggestion.
Aaron shouldn’t have feared anybody but God.
After all, Aaron stood with Moses before Pharaoh. Aaron was intimately acquainted with the awesome power of God against the false gods of the Egyptians. Aaron knew God and the destructive power of His wrath.
In spite of what Aaron knew, look what he did under pressure:
So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.
And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”
~ Exodus 32.2-5, ESV
The text doesn’t hint at a wavering or hesitation on Aaron’s part. He could have done any number of things, such as tell them to do whatever they wanted, prayed to God for help, or defiantly demanded their execution.
Instead of taking a stand for the Lord, he aided them in their apostasy.
Aaron allowed the fear of the people to overrule his fear of the Lord.
Can we fall into the same trap?
We can come to know God, worship His Holy name, and do all these wonderful things “for Him,” and then cave to world pressure in an instant. It’s so very easy to give way when our job, our friendships, or our very lives are on the line.
We can deny Him by our silence.
We can deny Him by our apathy.
We can deny Him by our words.
We can deny Him by our neglect.
We can even pull a “Peter,” and deny Him outright.
Jesus says to His apostles:
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
~ Matthew 10.28-33, ESV (emphasis mine)
When I am faced with pressure, I need to ask myself the following:
“What do I know to be true?”
“Who do I fear more—God or Man?”
“What choice should I make to honor God?”
When confronted with pressure, push back with prayer. God has given us armor to stand against our enemy. Are we putting it on? Are we remembering what a mighty God we serve?
Or, are we like Aaron, just going along with apostates and even aiding and abetting?
If you have come to know the Lord, keep Him ever before your eyes. Stand for Him because you both love and fear Him more than you love and fear the world.
Choose this day whom you will serve.
Greater is He who lives within you, than any who are in this world.
This is Part 4 of the Series “The Effects of Knowing God” For the previous post, click here.