By Lawrence Kelley
Influence is not something you can be for or against; it is something you must wield. It is the power by which we intangibly affect other people and events or the power that so affects us. Words and actions influence people in matters of moral importance. Therefore, it is important that Christians be mindful of the influence they have on others as well as how others influence them.
Jesus Christ wields the greatest positive influence of anyone who ever walked the earth. His death is remembered by millions of people every week and even the infidel is forced to acknowledge him every time he dates a letter. But Christ’s influence is primarily seen today through the lives of his followers.
“Let the lower lights be burning” exhorts the song we often sing. Jesus is the light of the world but he has left us with the task of being the lesser lights (Matt. 5:14-16). We are to permeate the darkness of this world. “Ye are the salt of the earth,” pronounced our Lord. We must bear the preserving influence of the gospel to a corrupting world. There is not such thing as neutral influence: we are either helping people come to or serve Christ, or we are turning people away from him.
Where do you stand on the so-called “questionable issues”? Issues like social drinking, dancing, mixed swimming are called matters of little or no importance by some Christians. But how many times have you spoke to a person about his soul while holding an alcoholic beverage in your hand? What kind of influence is your silence? Today’s swimsuits are designed to sexually arouse the opposite sex. Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). If we display our bodies before members of the opposite sex in such a shameless fashion are we being a light to the world or a worldly influence? If we move our bodies in a suggestive way while listening to music that glorifies unlawful sexual gratification, are we helping our partner serve Christ or Satan? I have heard preachers tell stories about people being baptized in places you would never expect, but I never have heard of anyone obeying the gospel at a beach party, bar, or dance. Why? Because being in such places excludes the possibility of anyone wielding a godly influence.
We must not with indifference surrender the battle to the foe. The church must remain a distinguishable body. We must never exchange the banner of the cross for a comfortable relationship with the world. It is time for more Christians to take a stand for their Lord. We must be different from the people we work, live, and study with. Many are so frightened by the thought of being recognized as different, they camouflage their Christianity under a cloak of worldliness that can be put on at a moment’s notice. The plea is for Christians who will sell out to God, who will hang the consequences of standing for what they believe in. If we are to enjoy the privileges of being a child of God then we must be willing to stand the peculiarities of holiness. Tolbert fanning put it like this, “We have set our lives upon a cast and we will stand the hazard of the die.”
God expects you and I to brighten the corner of the world we happen to have been allotted. As individuals we may appear an insignificant point of light, but anywhere the truth is prevailing, the cause is prospering and that is important. We must remember to whom we belong and allow his beautify to be seen in us. Like it or not we affect people everyday by our words and deeds. Contrariwise, we are swayed by the things we surround ourselves with. We must read, listen to, and watch the right things. We must continually consider where influences are leading us, then examine ourselves to determine if we are leading others in the way they ought to go. The following words are written on a marker at the grave of a little girl,
“A child of whom her playmates said, ‘It was easier to be good when she was with us.”‘
Can this be said of you?
Guardian of Truth XXXVI :7, p. 213
April 2, 1992