Whether we like it or not, other people see what we do. If they like what they see, our actions will tend to rub off on them. If they don’t like what they see, that can shape what they don’t do.
Having our environment rub off on us is a concept we’re all familiar with: For instance, after I clear the driveway with our little snow-thrower, I have to leave my coat in the back room, because it smells of partially-burned gasoline. The other night, I met some colleagues from work at a noisy restaurant, and when I got home, my voice was just about gone. On the other hand, after I spend some time with other Christians, whether at church or just hanging out with the guys in my men’s group, I tend to be better prepared to actually be useful in the world around me, rather than selfish. Where we spend time influences not just how we look, smell, and sound, but who we become.
But today’s study guide isn’t about how we are influenced. It’s about how we are part of the environment that influences others. You see, many of those whose life paths intersect with our own (whether regularly, like our family; or just once, like a stranger we meet in passing) don’t get a choice as to whether or not we will influence them. Although they can choose how to react to our behavior, and the opinions that they form about us, they often don’t get to choose what kind of impact we’ll have on their day, week, or life. They may choose who they imitate (see 3 John, verse 11), but they don’t always get to choose what sort of examples cross their path.
So, what sort of influence are you having? Can we say, like Paul (in I Corinthians 11:1), that we want people to imitate us – not because we’re that great, but because we are copying the example of Jesus? Is our work ethic something that others look up to (see 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8), or something they look down upon?
This is your challenge for today: Evaluate what message your actions and words deliver to others, and seek to move people closer to Jesus, not farther away from him. If you don’t feel that you’re doing as good of a job of this as you could, consider the following:
If you’ve had someone in your life who was a great example to you, and if you can still contact that person, take some time today to do a couple of things. First, be sure that you’ve thanked that person. Then, ask that person to invest a little more time with you. This doesn’t have to be weird or formal. Just ask this person to share with you the story of their life journey, over lunch or coffee, on a drive, or maybe even during a game of golf. Most people would be honored to have you ask them for advice, even if they don’t think themselves as being called anything so formal as a “mentor”.
Read Hebrews 13:7, and get all the help you can to be a positive light in the lives of others.