"It has been said that we will either influence people toward righteousness or wickedness, but we will definitely influence others."
One of the things that I learned early in life is that we cannot help but influence people around us. A famous expression of this principle is provided by John Donne (1572-1631) in a piece written in 1624 where he states: “As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness … No man is an island, entire of itself … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
The essential reality that one life affects the lives of those around it is a general principle taught in Scripture. We are told that a believing wife “sanctifies” those around her (1 Corinthians 7:14); evil behavior corrupts those around it (1 Corinthians 15:33); and, careful application of truth in one’s life impacts those who observe us (1 Timothy 4:14-16). It has been said that we will either influence people toward righteousness or wickedness, but we will definitely influence others. Our concern as Christians is that our lives point people toward Christ - not away from Him!
Here are some practical ways to cultivate the influence that we desire to have on others:
- Resolve to be a personal follower of Jesus Christ - Paul invited others to follow him even as he followed Christ - 1 Corinthians 11:1. He realized that his life was one that had to be centered on Christ Jesus so that his influence would lead others toward Christ - cp. Philippians 4:9
- Resist the Devil - Satan’s strategy is to draw our attention away from God to other things. He desires to drive wedges between us and God - most commonly he uses sin, doubt, and distraction to do it. Our responsibility is to purposefully submit to God and draw near to Him as the foremost way to resist the Devil - cp. James 4:7-8.
- Rely on the Power of God’s Spirit - left to ourselves, we will be dominated by our flesh and will inevitably influence people toward some form of ungodliness. Yet, if we walk in the Spirit, yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to walk in a manner worthy of our calling - Ephesians 4:1-3; Galatians 5:16-17.
- Rejoice in Others’ Blessings - Jesus declared that He “did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In that sense, His concern was to enable us to become what we need to be in order to have a relationship with the Father. He is the embodiment of the command given by Paul: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). This enables us to truly rejoice as God brings blessing upon others since that is the very thing we are to seek!
- Respect Diversity in the Body - Each person is called by the Lord to serve Him in ways unique to the individual. Not every person in the church will be the same. As diverse as the body is with many members (parts), so is the Body of Christ. To insist that every member look and act the same is a disservice to the Body. Our responsibility is to seek to help others be what God has called them to be and what God has made them to be. We do this by pointing them to Christ so that they might be conformed to Him - not to us! - 1 Corinthians 12:12.
As we diligently apply ourselves to developing these qualities, we will be of increasing influence in the lives of those around us. May God bless your efforts to live in such a way to bring the greatest glory to Christ Jesus!