The Rehoboam Effect-The Consequences of Negative Peer Pressure.

I’m a Christian. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life. I love my Lord and it is my pleasure to serve and glorify Him in every way I’m able.

Why do so many people have a problem with Christians? If you don’t choose to believe, that is your right under the First Amendment. I for one have no intention of trying to convert you. I will treat you with respect and kindness regardless of your beliefs or lack thereof. Why can’t you do the same for me? What difference does it make to me that I choose to believe in God? It doesn’t make me less intelligent, and it doesn’t make me a judgmental Bible-thumper. I’m finding it so sad that many tolerant, non-judgmental Christians feel pressured by society to hide their lamps.

Yes, I am a Christian and no matter what anyone else says, I’m not changing my mind. I have followed God for as long as I can remember and will do so until the day I die. I don’t care if I’m the last believer left on Earth. For this reason, I’ve deliberately chosen a Biblical parallel to illustrate my point. The Rehoboam Effect is my term for the consequences of caving in to peer pressure instead of doing what you know in your heart to be the right thing to do. 

I’ve always found the story of King Rehoboam to be a fascinating one (so much that I’ve planned a dystopian novel modeled loosely after his reign). Here is the Cliff-Notes version, in case you are unfamiliar: Rehoboam’s reign never stood a chance. As the only (identified) son of King Solomon, he was destined to be the next ruler of Israel (whether he wanted to or not). Towards the end of Solomon’s life, he fell out of favor with The Lord because of his blatant disregard of the direct responsibilities given to him and for using his power for selfish purposes rather than to serve and better the kingdom of Israel. As punishment, God told Solomon that Israel would be divided and that one of his officials (Jeroboam) would be made king over ten of the twelve tribes (Rehoboam would still get to keep Judah, in accordance with the covenant The Lord made with King David).

When Solomon eventually died, the people of Israel, who have been oppressed by Solomon’s heavy taxation required to finance an overly elaborate temple and to build temples of worship for his numerous wives (the very thing that got him in trouble), begged Rehoboam to lift the burden. Rehoboam, unsure of what to do, told them to give him three days to think things over. The people (led by Jeroboam) left him. Rehoboam asked his father’s advisers for advice on how to respond. The elders in his father’s court advised him to (at the very least) agree to take the people’s concerns under consideration. There is no evidence that he was told to simply give in to every demand they made.

So why would Rehoboam reject such sound advice? His public image as new king was of utmost importance.

Here is my theory: Rehoboam completed his conversation with the elders, and then left fully prepared to negotiate with the people. If he didn’t want or trust the advice of the elders, he wouldn’t have sought it in the first place, I would think. He then meets up with his drinking buddies. After a few rounds, the conversation of his coronation speech comes up:

“So, Reh, whatcha gonna say to Berojoam when he asks about lifting taxes?”

“I’m going to tell him to meet me in my office so we can settle matters like civilized people.”

“Ah, man, don’t be a wuss. You gotta show these people who’s in charge. They won’t respect you if you show any witness.”

“Witness?”

“Weakness, whatever. Hey, tavern wench, bring us another round. If you lighten the lax toad then the people think you’re a wuss, too. Come on, man! You’re Moloson’s only son. You gotta make your old man proud.”

“I don’t think my dad would be too proud of–”

“So when they come back, this is what you say…”

Follow the advice of the elders? Or my buddies? This was the decision that Rehoboam had to make. One choice would have make him a wise and respected leader (reading further into his story, one can see the potential to be an excellent king is there). The other would have make him look cool in front of his friends. Or not.

“Whereas my father laid upon you a heavy a yoke, so I shall add to it tenfold.  Whereas my father scourged you with whips, so I shall scourge you with scorpions.”

I can envision the scene in my head. The people, looking at each other with “what on God’s green Earth?” expressions, his so-called friends snickering, and Jeroboam shaking his head in contempt (but secretly delighted because the prophesy given to him is coming to fruition).

“Begging you pardon, My Lord, but–,” one of the elders began, only to be silenced by a dismissive wave of Rehoboam’s hand.

“My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist!” All over the crowd, people’s eyes become as big as saucers. Did he REALLY just say that? This is a joke, right? Any second our new king is going to say ‘and this is what I would have said if you hadn’t given me time to consult with the elders, but since you did, I am here to listen and to serve the people.’

Meanwhile, his “friends” are laughing their behinds off.

“I can’t believe old Reh fell for that! What a tool!” Malachi said.

“And I can’t believe Ezra here lay with your mama and your sister. They are as both as unclean as a dead hog.” As a fistfight breaks out, Rehoboam continues.

“And your backs, which bent like reeds at my father’s touch, shall snap like straw at my own.” End speech. Any hope for a relief of the oppression is lost. Rehoboam lost the respect of the people before he even started.

“Well, that’s that,” Jeroboam said. “Let’s go home.” Rehoboam stood there and watched the crowd leave. The full idiocy of his comments dawned on him in that instant. He had been set up for the prank of the millennium. If there had been Twitter back then, his speech would have been trending for months.

His friends stopped laughing as soon as they saw the fury in his face.

“Hey, man, it was only a suggestion. No one said you HAD to make the speech I gave you,” Malachi said.

“Yeah, you know how Malachi says stupid stuff when he’s drunk. None of us thought you were actually going to say that. We were just messing around. Really, Reh. Next time, listen to the elders and not to someone whose mother is an unclean woman.”

As Malachi punches Ezra in the nose, Rehoboam had to admit in his heart that he had no one to blame but himself for the foolish speech. He had the chance to say something that would have provided encouragement to the people instead of disappointment. He could have won respect that day instead of contempt. He could have given the people a bright future to look forward to instead of a bleak dystopia. Granted, the split of the kingdom was inevitable, but Rehoboam had the potential to be a great ruler like his grandfather, but with just a few sentences, he ruined it all.

These days, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have become the new Jeroboam. Collectively they have become a platform to express every form of discontent. People use the anonymity to spew hatred and anger. Even expressing an opinion contrary to the social norm of the moment will bring on an onslaught of troll attacks.

Jeroboam was the ultimate troll. He deliberately sowed anger and discontent to further his own agenda. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he were actually behind the scenes, telling his friends to encourage him to make the speech. And because Rehoboam was more concerned about what his friends thought than about doing what he knew in his heart was the right thing to do, he goes down in history as a wicked, foolish tyrant when one can tell he was better than that.

Don’t be Rehoboam. Think before you speak. Keep your words soft and sweet, because you may have to eat them later. 

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