The story is told, though it may be a legend, of Francis of Assisi, the 12th century monk, who once said to a fellow monk, “Let us go to town and preach.”
They went to town. They walked out one street, walked back another street, and returned. And never talked to a single person
Upon returning, the monk said to Francis, “I thought you said we were going to town to preach.”
Francis replied, “We were preaching. As we walked along the street people saw us, noted our demeanor, thought of our lives. Some impulse from our souls touched them. We were preaching all the way.”
Our word of the week is “influence.”
Influence. It’s powerful. Potent. And penetrating. Influence is the capacity to touch the lives of others. To impact their beliefs. Behavior. Or character.
In the world of business or politics we think of “influence brokers” who try to buy influence with their money. Power. Or social prestige. Yet, when undue and unfair pressure results in a favorable benefit for “the broker” the true influence of their character and integrity is diminished. Especially if “under the table deals” are revealed.
Spiritually speaking we often think of infulencers being the pastors and the preachers. Those who are spiritual Shepherds and trained in the Word to guide people. Yet, we all exert influence.
None of us can disregard the issues of influence. We all have it. Either for good or ill. It impacts friends. Family. Even husbands and wives. It touches all with whom it comes in contact. And as Stephen King once observed, “We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”
Influence is really about our example. Albert Schweitzer was right when he wrote, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”
Jesus used the metaphors of “salt” and “light” to describe the positive influence of his disciples. (Matt 5:13-16)
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Salt Flavors. Seasons.. Preserves. Salt suggest purity. We used the expression, “He’s the salt of the earth.” R.V.G. Tasker said that disciples are “to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or nonexistent.” Like salt, we are a positive influence in a corrupt world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Think about the value of light. Light is meant to be seen. To shine. To shine brightly. To shine conspicuously. To shine constantly, To shine usefully. Light warns. Guides. Directs. Illuminates. Our influence dispels the darkness of a sinful world.
We are salt and light as we influence others with the integrity of our character. Our care, compassion and kindness for others. The love we express. The faith we embrace. And the hope we share.
Our challenge is to resist being conformed to the world. And our calling is to be transformed from the world, so we can exert a righteousness influence (Rom. 12:1-2). Influence is a part of our world and our relationships. Is it fair to ask: Are you influencing the world? Or is the world influencing you?
This old poem by an unknown author ought to express our daily desire to influence others.
My life shall touch a dozen lives
Before this day is done,
Leave countless marks of good or ill,
E’er sets the evening sun.
This, the wish I always wish,
The prayer I always pray;
Lord, may my life help others lives,
It touches by the way.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman.