Taken from Pete’s series Better: A New and Living Way.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. — Oscar Wilde

I ranked pretty average on the popularity scale in high school—like 258th out of 500. But I did have one claim to fame. Once, I went on a date with the girl who was eventually voted most popular. The whole time I was thinking, Wow, she’s so popular and I’m not. What am I doing here? 

Do you remember those adolescent days and the passionate pursuit of popularity? Some struggled more than others, dumping loyal friends or compromising values if it meant a position closer to the inner circle. 

The promise of popularity is the fuel behind peer pressure. The reason we stepped into decisions that didn’t represent who we were is because we were hopeful it would lead to a higher approval rating. Did we need to be the most popular? No. But we did want to be a part of the conversation. 

Age and maturity are supposed to lead us away from this pastime. Yet even as adults we are concerned about others’ perceptions of us. We try to protect and hold on to positive opinions. And so, in some regard, even our adult behaviors are influenced by inner-circle opinions. 

The desire to please others can negatively influence our walk with Jesus. Maybe we’ll agree to something in a business deal that isn’t completely honest or transparent. Perhaps we’ll be the only one to refuse. Are we really supposed to be the sole divergent voice in a crowd? Are we really supposed to bring our faith to work? 

Most of us don’t want to be criticized for archaic beliefs. Most of us want to belong, and standing with Jesus in these moments might cost us our ticket with the in crowd. 

Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. (Hebrews 13:13) 

Over the next few days, we’re going to celebrate our exclusion from the inner circle of popularity and find ourselves in good company with Christ. We’ll learn how to be a divergent voice—a voice whose words will be laced with both truth and grace. 

Lord, I like to belong and I dislike exclusion. Please show me how to love people and see Your divine image in everyone, but also stand with You outside the inner circle when necessary. Amen.