I have been thinking (and discussing with a friend) recently about the idea of being influenced as opposed to being an influencer. Those who study group and interpersonal dynamics sometimes speak of men and women who are natural leaders, and others who are natural followers. One with such a viewpoint would classify the leaders as influencers and the followers as influenced. Other analysts bring greater granularity to the breakdown of personality types, classifying them as A, B, C, or D types, while still others see as many as 16 distinct personality types.
My recent ponderings have been related specifically to Jesus’ prayer in John 17, that we not be taken out of the world, but rather kept from the evil (one), and James saying that our being pure and undefiled before God is found in visiting widows and orphans in their affliction and in keeping ourselves unstained by the world. Where many would take a charge like this as a call toward an isolationist mentality, extricating themselves as much as possible from the world in order to remain pure while growing strong in their faith, I am beginning to see it in almost the exact opposite way.
Years ago, I talked with the students at Kansas University about being “rabbit-hole Christians,” who darted from one safe rabbit hole to the next, never risking being out among the heathens, loving, serving, showing them how God is for them and not against them, being an influencer, rather than the influenced. In behaving this way, seemingly, we remain unstained by the world. After all, how is being stained by the world even a threat for me if I am not actively rubbing elbows with the staining agent?
But what if we flipped that completely on its head? What if, rather then being affected by an external staining agent, what if we were the staining agent. What if we were influencers rather than the influenced?
When New Testament writers talk about the world, I do not see them talking about a people or a place, but rather a value system. This value system defines for us those things that are seen as worthy of our attention, devotion, and effort. The conflict between the world and the body of Christ is a clash of values rather than a clash of behaviors. The focus of the battle is on behaviors, because that is where the world presses the battle, but the battle will never be won there because that is not where the real clash exists. The world focuses on what we do, and the body of Christ needs to redirect the focus onto who we are, what we love, what we value. When we allow the focus to be directed at behaviors, what we do, we become like the world in our thinking. We are stained.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think on these things. – Philippians 4:8
How does this realignment of the mind happen? I believe is happens when we surrender to who we are, and I believe it is a passive transformation. Consider Paul’s statement to the church in Rome:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2
It is passive. Paul did not say, “Transform your mind,” or “Transform your activities.” He said, BE transformed, by another. That is surrender. That is giving up control of who and what I am to another. And it is at that point that I become impervious to the staining agent of the world, and I become a staining agent for the kingdom of God.
The world is not going to persuade me to love what it loves, or to value what it values. I am a child of the King, an adopted son of the Almighty. I feast on the finest delicacies imaginable, so when the world offers up a fine plate of excrement that I might love it and swoon over it, I cannot do so. It is filth, and I see it for what it is. As a loved and adopted son of the King, I escape the trap of pressing the envelope of depravity, and applauding the courage of the next most revolting behavior. And my heart breaks for those who are still trapped in the worthlessness and emptiness of the world system.
I am freed to love what the King loves, and to value what the King values, because the focus is on who I am rather than on what I do. Once I come to a complete understanding of who I am, my behaviors will flow naturally out of that identity. That is how we become influencers, unstained by the world.
March on, Christ followers, and leave the mark of the Almighty where ever you go.
Victoriously in Christ!