Occasionally, I purchase an item which I neither need nor want. Afterwards, I hit myself on the head and wonder how I could be so dimwitted. The explanation is simple: Such dimwitted impulses happen when I am shopping under the influence of others. I was likely shopping with a friend who purchased the item or drew my attention to it, and I didn't think it over carefully.
That came to mind after reading an essay on terrorists. I discovered that they have something in common with me: We are easily influenced. That, apparently, is the only trait common to all terrorists — not childhood trauma, stress, psychosis, religion, or poverty, as many suggest. No. What's common to them all is influence — the influence of others. Terrorists get into it by seeing others do it, and they are also strongly influenced by leaders. This was the grand discovery!
I could have saved the researchers much time by sharing a simple Dutch expression my mom taught: "The fool isn't the one who does it first, but the one who does it after." So true! The influence of others can short-circuit our rational sense and make us dimwitted fools, whether we're bombing or shopping.
Today, the phrase "under the influence" generally refers to driving with elevated alcohol levels in the blood. Impaired judgment can cause tragic accidents. The apostle Paul also referred to alcohol's influence: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18 NIV) Did you catch the vivid contrast between two kinds of influences? One makes us fools; the other, mature believers.
We know how substances like alcohol can fully influence a person's behaviour, thinking, relationships, habits, job, and so forth. When we are under any kind of harmful influence, it can negatively shape our entire lives, including our spiritual lives. Jesus had the very opposite in mind when He said, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12b NIV)
"Follow me! I'm your leader! Be filled with my Spirit! Remain in me!" cries our Lord. He's calling you and me to dislodge ourselves from the pull of everyday influences and live fully under His influence. This involves prayer, Scripture, and connection with positive influences. It involves learning from visionaries and authorities, including those outside our culture and time. Those people, we discover, were themselves shaped by positive spiritual influences. These are among the many people who, like Paul, could humbly say, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)
Today's church and society, and especially the next generation, urgently need such examples to influence and inspire them towards maturity. Today's true contemporary leaders and authorities are those who have learned to remain under the influence of our Lord. Will you be one of them?
Prayer: Lord, only You know how much we have unwittingly submitted to wrong influences. Redirect our focus toward positive influences that we may grow in maturity and be a positive influence for others, for the sake of Your kingdom. Amen.
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