Recently a friend and I sat in somber reflection at the power of influence. Influence can be an unintentional bump, a gentle nudge, or a fierce force sending one in a direction or on a path, for better or worse. And when influence gathers a following, it is its own entity.
There’s a sense of foreboding when a couple rests at the town square.
18 “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah,” the man replied. “We are on our way to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim, which is my home. I traveled to Bethlehem, and now I’m returning home. But no one has taken us in for the night, 19 even though we have everything we need. We have straw and feed for our donkeys and plenty of bread and wine for ourselves.”
20 “You are welcome to stay with me,” the old man said. “I will give you anything you might need. But whatever you do, don’t spend the night in the square.” (Judges 19:18-20, NLT)
While they were dining as guests in the old man’s house …
22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.” (Judges 19:22, NLT)
I pause at this crowd. Would one man have acted this way on his own? To be so bold as to make demands and intimidate? Would two men have done this? But one’s idea catches fire to a crowd, and they arrive at this place and collectively terrorize a victim–the concubine.
27 When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said, “Get up! Let’s go!” But there was no answer. So he put her body on his donkey and took her home.
29 When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine’s body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel.
30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?” (Judges 19:27-30, NLT)
Not succumbing to poor influences is a starting point, and it may keep one out of the mix. But this seizes me: everyone who saw it (admitted it was a horrible crime, recognized it for the abuse it was, was aware of the oppressive force) … who’s going to speak up?
I can take those words and apply them today to any number of things: from bullying, domestic issues, and social ostracizing to violence, injustice, or oppression.
I contrast this with the fire of the Holy Spirit that comes upon the group in Acts 2. A group is witness to the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, and still, they write it off to something they can understand instead of seeing it for divine truth in action.
13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” (Acts 2:13, NLT)
Another crowd. Ridicule. But there are some who see the truth, and their hearts are pierced.
37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” (Acts 2:37-40, NLT)
Father God, the Holy Spirit is a gift, a promise. Help me to heed your counsel. Whether one-to-one or in a group, please give me wisdom and courage to do what is right and honor you.