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THE other night on the television show I was watching, The Simpsons, Bart asked his dad if it was important to be popular. If you're familiar with the show, you know that his dad's moral compass has a few loose screws! He replied: ''Popularity is the most important thing in the whole wide world.''

Bart wanted some friends, and some of the most popular kids in school were letting him hang around with them. But to fit in meant Bart was having to do more and more things that were dishonest. And while Bart is often in trouble, he's not naturally bad. He didn't want to be bad, he wanted to be accepted. That's why he asked his dad about popularity.

What do you think? How important is it to be popular? How far would you go to be accepted by the ''in'' group? These are good questions to ask your own parents.

Almost no one wants to sit by himself in the lunchroom, or walk alone in the halls between classes. But sometimes being accepted seems to mean doing things that we don't really want to do. Few start smoking or drinking all alone; it's when we are with our friends. Someone suggests the idea, and then suddenly there's a lot of pressure to join in. That's because people really know in their heart that it's wrong, and they can only feel secure if everyone does it.

Secure is a key word. If we know deep inside who we are, we feel secure. Probably no one ever felt as secure as Christ Jesus did. No self-doubt, no insecurity, tormented him. Jesus was so close to God that he could hear His thoughts. After Jesus was baptized, Matthew's Gospel tells us, he heard God's voice saying, ''This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'' (3:17). This knowledge supported him in good times and bad.


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