Influenced or Influencing?
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers” —Psalm 1:1, NIV.
Psalm 1 was the first chapter of the Bible that I memorized in Sunday School as a child. I can still picture, if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me, standing in the Primary classroom in the basement of the church, reciting the psalm in front of Mrs. Wood and my classmates. In those days memorizing Scripture was an important part of what we did in Sunday School, and I still remember Psalm 1 as clearly as if I had learned it just yesterday.
This particular verse had its greatest impact on me when someone explained the progression in it. The psalmist says that a person enjoys happiness, contentment, peace, with God when he doesn’t:
1. Walk, or get too close on a regular basis, with those who would encourage him to do what doesn’t please God,
2. Stand, or hang around, with those who are not doing what would please God,
3. Sit, or participate in the actions and attitudes of those who do not please God.
A moth will try to get as close to the light as it can get. If that light is an open flame, it will still try to get as close as possible. Sometimes the moth will get too close and get burned. We often imitate the moth, trying to get as close as we can to what is not good for us without getting burned. As the psalmist warms us, walking leads to standing, and standing leads to sitting, and they all lead to losing the blessing of God in our lives.
The challenge comes when we combine these instructions with the mission we have to be salt and light in a dying and dark world. I think the key lies in the motivation that drives us to walk alongside those who don’t know the Lord. Where there is a “fatal attraction” to the lifestyle of those who don’t know the Lord, there is a huge danger of falling into this walking, standing, sitting progression. Where there is a sincere and God-driven desire to help those who don’t know the Lord along their journey to the faith, there still exists a danger, but we go equipped with the power of God Who is our “strength and shield” as the psalmist writes in another place.
The distance from this latter motivation to the former is sometimes not very far so we need to follow the directions in the rest of the psalm and be like a tree whose roots are firmly planted in the river from which it draws its life and strength (Psalm 1:3). As we draw from God and keep firmly grounded in Him, we can be that salt and light without running the risk of losing our flavour or having that light extinguished by the influences of the world we are trying to reach.
The psalmist tells us clearly how to avoid this downward spiral when he writes of that person who doesn’t walk, stand, or sit: “…his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2, NIV). When we walk, stand, and sit with God, the influences of the world lose their charm and we can become the influencers.