The gathering had just begun when I walked in with a friend of mine. We grabbed a couple of seats in the back and I instinctually looked around at those in attendance. I had no history with this group, and honestly I was only there because my friend had invited me to tag along. My attention quickly focused on the person at the front of the group who was speaking. She spoke with confidence and conviction on the subject matter, and the crowd was listening very intently. Again, having no interest in the subject matter, I became fascinated with watching the dynamic between speaker and audience. It was clear to me that with each passing moment the speaker had greater and greater influence on the crowd.
In the days following this gathering I continued to reflect on who, what, how we are influenced, and who is it we influence. I started pondering who and what have been the main influencers in my life (family, friends, mentors, leaders, social media), considering why was I open to their influence and less influenced by others. I then reflected on times when I felt I did not have a choice in the way things were being influenced. The person in the position of power was the influencer and there was no question that all were expected to do it their way. When one has the power, the position, the privilege, the mic—they have the greatest influence on determining what is going to happen.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having influence. The core question is, when we are in a position of influence, do we use it for our own personal gain or that of others? Time and time again I have witnessed influencers do incredible, even sacrificial, good for others. I have also experienced other influencers as completely self-centered.
We see yet again another horrific tragedy in our country and it’s hard not to see how people are influenced to make the decisions they are making. Powerful companies and lobbyists influence politicians, politicians and social media influence others with their rhetoric or lack of action, and individuals who attempt to influence all of us to fear, through hate and violence. As followers of Jesus, how will we use the influence each of us has in our own lives?
There once where two people of great influence at the same time. Pilot, the governor who held incredible influence, and Jesus of Nazareth, who also held incredible influence. Pilot, who had the opportunity to use his influence to set free an individual who was falsely accused but chose not to, and Jesus, who also had significant influence, and without exception used it to heal, feed, raise the dead, and never for his own gain. One could have used their influence to save a life, and the other used their influence to give life.
How do we use our influence? Do we use our influence for self-gain or for love of others?