Friday, April 22, 2016
Download MP3 (right click to save)
It was always nice when we got to spend a little time at the little country place we inherited from my wife's grandparents. It's a pretty big treat for a city boy like me, and a real education. Now we don't have any cows ourselves, but that place is surrounded by cows on all sides. It made me feel all peaceful when I could sit on the porch and see the cows inside the fence across the road, just quietly grazing or sitting in the shade. It didn't make me feel peaceful when I got up one morning and saw one of our neighbor's cows in our front yard grazing and leaving like souvenirs of her visit.
Our neighbor left his pasture gate wide open, but that's OK. The cattle guard's there in the ground; you know, that little grate that cows are afraid to cross for fear of getting a hoof stuck. Well, they're supposed to be afraid. But this cow had somehow found her way to pick her way across the cattle guard, which left her free to wander all over the countryside. I even named her – Gretchen. And pretty soon, Brownie saw what Gretchen did and managed to navigate that cattle guard, too; eventually followed by Wanda. That's my name, short for Wanda-rer. This little black calf followed Gretchen out. They ended up wandering everywhere, even up toward the main highway, which is dangerous. As soon as one cow ignored the boundaries, others just followed her where they were never meant to go.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Power of Your Influence."
It isn't just cows that follow cows out of bounds. That's why Paul issues this warning in our word for today from the Word of God, 1 Corinthians 8 beginning with verse 9. "Be careful that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." Then he moves to a lifestyle choice he has made, simply based on how a certain behavior would affect other believers.
The issue back then had to do with whether or not Christians should eat meat that had been offered to idols in pagan ceremonies. Apparently, some felt they could eat that meat in good conscience – it was just a piece of meat. But for others, it might be the first step backwards toward the darkness that Christ had delivered them from. So Paul says, "If what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." Paul says, "I can't make my choices based only on how it will affect me. If I go there, someone else may follow me."
Now back to our wandering bovine neighbor, Gretchen. I don't think she ever thought about a calf or any other cows following her outside the fence. All she knew was there was something she wanted that was beyond the boundaries. Actually, she should never have crossed the cattle guard herself. But what made it worse was that her example emboldened other cows to go where they shouldn't go; to go where they could get hurt.
Now hopefully, you and I are a little smarter than cows. We have to remember that when we do things, people are watching and even following us because of that invisible power called influence. Because we can't see it, we forget we have it and that it's affecting people around us. Your behavior? Your choices? You're giving permission to someone who's watching you to do the same thing. A child is watching, a younger Christian, a coworker, a friend. You step outside the boundaries a little, and they might follow you and end up where they never would have gone otherwise; going farther than you would ever go.
Don't be someone else's excuse to watch or listen to something questionable. You don't know where it might take them. Don't be someone else's excuse to swear, or to cheat a little, to act selfish, to be disrespectful, maybe to flirt with sexual sin or a moral compromise, or just to shade the truth.
Could it be that you've gotten a little careless, thinking you can wander just a little out of bounds, and you think you've found a way to do it where you won't get hurt, you won't get stuck. Even if that's true, please look at what you're doing to those who are watching you, who may follow you. Like Gretchen's gang, you may inadvertently be leading someone down a road they should never be on.
Your exercise of freedom could lead someone else into bondage or hurt. If it might cause a brother or sister to fall, don't even go there!