I’ve been listening to an audiobook of Seth Godin’s This is Marketing. He talks about the importance of status as the reason why people do things and the difficulty of getting them to change if it means going against what gives them status. According to Seth, people acquire status by affiliation or domination, i.e., “I’m part of this group,” or “This is mine!” He tells a story about young men in a tribe who acquire status by killing lions as their rite of passage. This has led to a significant decrease in the number of lions in their area. And he says that trying to change them by trying to convince them that killing lions is wrong or bad won’t work. What works is getting them to change their perception of acquiring status. For example: Be a lion-saver, not a lion-killer!
I think there’s an insight here that relates to Christianity. Part of the motivation involved in the change in a person’s conduct when he becomes a Christian has to do with the way he perceives his status: he is now affiliated with Christ and he identifies with his fellow Christians. They read their Bibles, so does he. They pray and sing hymns, so does he. They go to church, so does he.
This isn’t peer pressure or herd mentality; this is biblical teaching, or if you like, biblical psychology. You see yourself in a new way, you then act in a new way, and it helps that you’re part of a group that sees and acts in this new way. “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self…” “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (See Colossians chapter 3).
New identity, new self, new affiliation, new practices. New status!