So over Easter weekend we posted about Good Friday and Easter. Good Friday was interesting because here on God Running we happened to be at the part of the book of John where Good Friday takes place: John chapter 18. Which was, perhaps, not a coincidence. (See previous post The Good Shepherd Dies for His Sheep) Today we’re returning back to our regular progression through the book of John. We left off with Jesus being interrogated by Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of the current high priest. And Peter had already denied Jesus once. (See previous post The Truth About Masks (and the truth about us)
Peter’s New Peer Group
While Jesus is inside standing before Annas, Peter is outdoors in the courtyard with Annas’s servants and officers, warming himself by their fire.
This group of servants and officers asks Peter, “You are one of his disciples, aren’t you?”
Peter says, “I am not.”
Then one of Annas’s servants–a relative of Malchus the one who lost his ear to Peter’s sword–he says, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”
Peter again denies it.
And at once the rooster crowed.
In another Gospel we see that at that moment Jesus, bound and being led out of Annas’s house, turns and looks at Peter. Then Peter remembers how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”
And Peter went out and wept bitterly. (John 18:25-27, Luke 22:60-62)
The Friendly Man Turned Rude-ish
Today I watched a Ted Talk by Julien S. Bourrelle. He’s from a French speaking part of Canada, and where he’s from it’s normal for strangers to engage in conversation with each other. And while he was living in Canada, that’s what he and others did: and it was normal.
But then he moved to Norway. He quickly learned that while people socialize in Norway, the framework for socialization and friendship is more structured and formal. So one day he was on a trip to Brussels, Belgium. And he’s sitting in the beautiful town square at the center of the city. Suddenly a man came and sat next to him, and started talking to him. So he turned and answered–but–then he turned back, and he asked himself,
“Why is he talking to me?”
He apologized for his reaction and explained that where he lives, strangers don’t talk to each other.
And it was then he realized, after five years of living among Norwegians, he had become more like a Norwegian than he ever thought he would. (Julien S. Bourrelle, How Culture Drives Behaviours, TEDxTrondheim)
The Dark Side of Social Norming
I experienced the dark side of social norming myself when I was hanging with people who were all about hang gliding. After one hang gliding lesson Kathy gave me for my birthday and attending a few Rogue Valley Hang Gliding Association meetings I was doing things I never thought I’d ever do. I was strapping into a harness and jumping off a cliff. I mean literally. Jumping. Off. A. Cliff.
Peter experiences this after surrounding himself with Jesus’ enemies at the warming fire. Only hours earlier, surrounded by his fellow disciples, Peter declared to Jesus, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” And he said, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And everyone around him, all the disciples, said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35, Luke 22:31-38, John 13:31-38)
But now, in our passage, surrounded by Jesus’ enemies, Peter becomes a different person. And before the rooster crows, Peter denies Jesus three times.
And he wept bitterly.
The Bright Side of Social Norming
Peter denying Jesus, me jumping off cliffs, Julien S. Bourrelle’s somewhat rude response to friendly strangers, these are negative examples of the mind boggling power of social norming. But fortunately you can use this power for good just as easily as you can for bad.
Kathy and I had a family member staying with us for a few months and he is a CrossFit type athlete. He looks like Dwayne Johnson. He looks like a super hero–minus the cape. And when he came to stay with us he often took me with him to the gym. I started doing all kinds of things, good things, positive things for my health, for my body, things I never thought I’d do. I started eating differently and exercising differently: In a good way.
That was a few months ago. More recently I started hanging around a certain place with Gabe, Charise, and Andrew. Gabe, Charise, and Andrew have become Brazilian Jiu Jitsu enthusiasts. They bought jiu jitsu gis, and they signed up for lessons. They’re at the jiu jitsu gym five days a week (pre-COVID-19 that is). They invited me to join them a few times. Showed me a few videos. Next thing I know I bought a jiu jitsu gi and I signed up for lessons. I met some nice people at the gym and their enthusiasm, and the influence of Gabe and his family, are changing who I am. Suddenly I’m fascinated with arm bars, and kimuras, and rear naked chokes. To my own surprise I can’t find enough Royce Gracie documentaries to watch. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would do these things. And it’s been good. If you train the right way with the right people it’s great exercise and safe too.
The Simplest Way to Become Like Jesus
A turning point for me in my walk with Jesus occurred when I learned about the positive power of social norming. When Jesus walked the earth he surrounded himself with people who wanted to become like their master, Jesus. As I wrote in my book Love Like Jesus, the primary way in which a disciple learned from his master was through imitation. (Keener) That’s why wherever Jesus was, the disciples were there also. For three years they did ministry together, traveled together, and lived together. The disciples learned from Jesus by being in the closest proximity possible, to Jesus. We can do the same.
We can do the same by finding those who excel at walking as Jesus walked, and connecting ourselves to them as closely as possible. In my experience I’ve found them doing ministry of some sort. I’ve experimented with different ministries and I’m still in the process of exploring and searching for those who walk as Jesus walked. But those I’ve found so far are active. They’re following Jesus well and serving him in some way (or ways). (1 John 2:6)
Hanging with these people makes me a better Jesus follower.
Hanging with them makes me a man who is much more like Jesus than I would be otherwise.
The people I see who walk as Jesus walked are intentional about surrounding themselves with people who love Jesus well.
Finding people who walk as Jesus walked and connecting to them as closely as possible will change you too.
“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way he walked.”
1 John 2:6
Julien S. Bourrelle, How Culture Drives Behaviours, TEDxTrondheim, on Youtube, July 10, 2015
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 297
I finished reading your book recently. Good job. But to your point about social norming. I’ve been told and I believe it is true that you become like the five people you most often hang out with. That is why we need to be very selective with our choice of friends. Several years ago I dropped out of a bible study that I had been in for years. Why? Were they bad people? No, not at all. But the men in this group were satisfied with the status quo. I on the other hand was not. They were unwilling to take calculated risks for Jesus. If I was going to stretch myself out of my comfort zone I had to leave these men. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. One of those decisions you know about, The Jesus Table. That ministry would not have been started if I had stayed in that bible study. I have subsequently done other things that involved risk. Some of these endeavors failed but surprisingly most have not. But it all began by distancing myself from people that were not good for me to associate with.
Thanks for reading the Love Like Jesus book Doug! Regarding your quote, “…you become like the five people you most often hang out with,” I’ve observed that to be true in my own life and in the lives of others,over and over again. Couldn’t agree with you more. Also, at the risk of embarrassing you, I have to say, you, Carol, and the people at the Jesus Table were some of the biggest influences on me for Christ–ever. Can’t wait until the COVID-19 thing is over so we can grab breakfast! God bless you and all you do for God’s kingdom!