Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Influence of Conviction

Think about the fact that in Paul’s gospels, he calls the congregation to imitate him…

Brothers and sisters,  join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us (Philippians 3:17, NRSV).

This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate (2 Thessalonians 3:9, NRSV).

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, NRSV).

Do you want for anyone to imitate you?

What a responsibility that is! Even on my best days, I would never say imitate me when I am at the grocery store, or when my dishwasher breaks, or even when I whisper in church. I could never be that bold. I long to be worthy of that, though.

I am not even sure my mentor would tell me to imitate her. She might say that I should imitate Christ, but she would not point that back at herself. I want to imitate her, though.

But, why imitate when it is such shaky ground?

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia (1Thessalonians 1:6 &7, NRSV).

Paul was an example so that we can be imitators. Ok, so he was not talking to us, but this is sitting in our hands in 2009, so I am thinking that he is supposed to be talking to me. I am supposed to be an imitator so that I can be an example to those who come behind me. This has been going on a long time.

Paul is explaining to the Thessalonians in chapter one that he has heard about them because their influence is like knocking over a row of dominos. It just keeps going and going, sweeping through Macedonia and Achaia, but not only there.

For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it (1 Thessalonians 1:8, NRSV).

They were so influential as a group that, one-by-one, they were putting Paul out of business. He was finding so many people who had heard the gospel from the Thessalonians that there was no need for him. Now, that is a tall order. (What does that phrase, “tall order” come from, anyway?)

Some of us struggle with influence. We struggle with the desire for it, or the need for distance from it. As believers we have the responsibility of influence. It is our job. In order to do it right, we have to find people to imitate, whether they call it that or not. We also have to take up the role of mentor, to serve as an example.

In most churches both of these roles are looked upon as a vial of poison that has just been broken on the floor. No one wants to touch it without a hazmat suit.

Notice that the Thessalonians’ example was really the influence of their conviction spreading across these lands. So, could my influence spread my conviction across the street? Could my influence spread my conviction down my block? Has it spread my conviction to my friends?

We influence people all the time, but do we use that influence wisely. Ideally, our influence is one that started with Paul. It is the story of millions of believers taking up the gospel by imitation and spreading it as an example to others. This is a string of conviction that first cried out as a voice in the desert. We are still a part of that influence.

Even though you might not think that your influence will strike the final blow, you are in a process that does not belong to you. God’s purpose will move without us. But, wouldn’t you like to be a part of that?

Where can you show more influence in your life?

Father, thank you for preserving the roots of your process. Make us a powerful part of your circle of influence. Let us serve a purpose in your kingdom, today.

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