By Donnie V. Rader
Influence is defined as, “a power indirectly or intangibly affecting a person or a course of events” (American Heritage Dictionary, 660). We all have influence and we all are influenced. In the most notable sermon that Jesus preached in Galilee, he spoke of the influence that Christians would have on the world as light and salt. Jesus, thinking that influence to be powerful, said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
It stands to reason that if we, the people of God, have an influence on the world, the world is likely to have an influence on us. Paul warned of the same, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Rom. 12:3).
It is also true that Christians have influence on one an-other. The diligent have an impact on those who could do better (1 Tim. 4:12). The life of those who slip into sin works like leaven (1 Cor. 5:1-6). Their influence, though subtle, could permeate the whole church.
Those who have the greatest impact are those that are most like us. 1 Corinthians 5 establishes that point. The vile and wicked drug addict is not as likely to influence us as some seemingly strong Christian who sees nothing wrong with it and suggests that you are being petty for questioning it.
Let’s consider some things that influence our thinking and change our lives.
1. What becomes accepted in the world can, in time, become “norm” for us too. Little by little what the world thinks to be okay can eventually infiltrate our minds. At first we may consider the rest of the world as being careless and loose with God’s word. However, as time goes on, we think more and more like they do. Consider how we have come to accept what the world would have “condemned” years be-fore: women in the workforce, divorce, wearing short and tight clothes, R-rated movies, etc. That is not to say that allthat is accepted in the world and then by us is necessarily wrong. At times, it may simply involve custom or tradition. I’m simply pointing to the power of influence.
However, I’m fearful what those in my grandchildren’s day may accept. What the world accepts now, God’s people could easily begin to accept in the future. For evidence of how this works consider how the natives of the land of Canaan turned God’s people toward evil (see the book of Ezra). It happens little by little. We become accustomed to the ideas of the world. Whether we agree or not, we become used to the idea that “that’s what everyone is doing.” So in time, we are “desensitized” enough that we think it is okay for us too.
2. What we see at home. Most of us would admit that at least in part we are what we are today because of what our parents did or did not do in our training. This is true even in things that do not involve right or wrong. More and more I find myself doing things that I remember my parents doing. More and more I see that I judge things based on how I was raised. My point is our home life has a powerful impact on the rest of our lives (Prov. 22:6).
We can be influencing our children to gradually drift and become looser in their thinking by the little things we do or allow. Do you ever think that in the future your children may base their determination of what is right or wrong upon what you, as a parent, allowed them to do as a child? A child that is allowed to miss services for a ball game or to stay home because some in the family are tired will re-member that as he gets older. That child may later reason “What’s the difference in missing for a ball game and going fishing?” You see, with every move we make we are building a “value system” into our children that will guide them in the future. Don’t forget, that those we teach (especially our children) may carry the principles they learn from us further than we had in mind. Now be honest. Have you ever “justified” something in your own mind thinking, “When I was a child we used to ___________ and we didn’t think anything about it. What is the difference in ____________ and doing _________ ?” If you reason that way, don’t kid yourself thinking your children will not do the same.
3. We are affected by those with whom we associate. Paul said, “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33, ASV). Though usually quoted to say we need to watch who are friends are, the context is talking of false teachers. Listening to those who issue uncertain sounds can corrupt our lives. Paul’s warning is that we can be influenced by them. Sometimes people drift as much because of what they have not heard as they do from what they have heard.
It is not just preachers and teachers that influence us. Other “Christians” whose thinking differs from our own can change us and our children. We are now facing ideas and concepts that indicate that a parting of ways among brethren is coming. It is obvious that there are two mind sets. Those with a looser, more tolerate attitude could have an influence on us and our children as our ear is bent to their voice.
The problem with influence is that by the time we realize the impact it has had, it may be too late.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 18 p. 18-19
September 18, 1997